On Music & Storytelling

 

I’ve been in love with storytelling since I was a child.

To me, form—novels, films, poetry, music—doesn’t matter, I gravitate toward stories that are relatable, honest, evocative, and raw.

I love listening to music, in particular because the artist is inviting you to get to know them in an intimate setting. It’s like reading their diary or flipping through an album of their photos and other personal mementos. Like they’re letting you in on a secret they may or may not have ever intended to share with the rest of the world. 

I think this also reinforces why I’m a firm believer in owning physical copies of albums.

I value the ability to hold something tangible, to remove the CD from its packaging and pore over the lyrics and liner notes. To be able to visit and re-visit the entire body of work as many times as I want, whenever I want.

From my pre-teen years to my present life, my favorite artists releasing new music has always been a big deal to me.

It’s something to look forward to and count down to, something to make a trip to the store for, something I hope to pass on to my future children or nieces and nephews someday, something that never loses its magic. It’s a constant in a world that often is cold and chaotic.

Music has value.

It’s healing, cathartic, powerful, spiritual.

Music is a universal language understood and loved by many and I’m proud to include myself in this category.

Do you love music? If so, what does it mean to you? What do you enjoy most about music as a form of storytelling?

Comment below or tweet me at @cmsellers14

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Remembering Why I Started + 5 Tips for Combating Writing “Burnout”

Honesty hour: Writing has been really difficult for me lately and I haven’t enjoyed practicing my craft.

When I started this blog last July, I was excited to have my own space to grow and develop my voice. In more recent months; however, I’ve felt the pressure to keep producing and pushing content, so that this space stays “current.” I’ve also been obsessively monitoring my blog’s analytics and have felt preoccupied by clicks, likes, comments, and new followers.

As if the quality of how “good” my writing is rests on how many people read and respond to a particular post or don’t. As if this should influence my decision as to whether or not I continue to maintain this space.

Validation culture in 2019 is a dangerous thing for creatives. It makes us doubt ourselves, it impacts our ability to create for the pure joy of doing so, it sparks feelings of frustration, sadness, and even jealousy. It pulls our focus from what’s truly important.

I admit this is something I’ve had to remind myself of a lot lately. I don’t write for Internet validation–though it is nice when my words connect with others and they share this with me–I write because I like telling stories. I write because I enjoy sharing my knowledge and perspective on certain topics (see Music Journalism). I write because it’s therapeutic.

I write because I find happiness in creating. 

And you know what? That’s enough for me.

In thinking about why I started this platform again, I still say that I wanted a space where I could grow and develop my voice as well as hold myself accountable, “show up,” and commit to my craft even when I don’t always feel like it. I’ve done that, and in my opinion, that’s the true measure of my success. (The power of positive thinking, am I right)? Pursuing a creative life isn’t easy–as I’m often reminded–but continually “showing up” and cultivating my craft is how I’m going to become a better storyteller.

I believe in myself and I am my primary audience. If I write for me and with the intent of  becoming a better storyteller–if I just be myself–then I’m confident I’ll connect with people who believe in me and in my words. And if not, then that’s okay, too. No matter what, I always want writing to be a part of my life.

So then, how do I combat writing “burnout” and continue practicing my craft for the pure joy of it? How can you?

First, I suggest finding a platform to practice your craft. That could be a blog, journal, or even a freelance gig at a website or newspaper. There is no right or wrong choice here. Determine what you want to write about and where.

Second, disregard validation. This is a tough one, but if you focus on just the recognition aspect of writing, you won’t be happy. Write for yourself. Write to improve. Write because there’s joy in creating. Believe in your own abilities and grow as a storyteller. If people like what you have to say, then they’ll find you. Just relax and be yourself.

Third, take breaks when necessary. It’s okay to step away from your work if you need to. A lot of the time this is helpful and doing so gives you perspective. Maybe you’re writing something and you just can’t get the words out the way that you want to. Stepping away and shelving your work for a day–or a week–can give you insight on what might not be working and how you can correct that.

Fourth, connect with fellow writers. Do you have friends who also write? Trade anecdotes about how your writing is going over coffee or lunch. Or if you maintain an online blog, seek out writers with similar content. Read what they’re writing and figure out what you can learn from them. They may even offer you valuable tips on how to improve your craft.

Finally, have fun. Writing is no good if you’re not having fun. Take creative risks and embrace your artistic license. Experiment with your style, voice, and form. Experimenting with your art can show you exactly who you are and what you want to say as a writer. It may also help you develop an appreciation for a writing style you previously disliked or never considered utilizing. (For example, I used to hate poetry. Then I read more poems. Soon after, I fostered a deep love for it and now I write poems for fun). You’d be surprised at what can happen. : )

If you’re a writer–or other type of creative–how do you keep practicing your craft when you’re struggling? Do you combat creative “burnout” or seeking validation? What tips can you offer your fellow creatives?

Comment below or tweet me at @cmsellers14

 

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You Say

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Photo Cred: https://weheartit.com/entry/319461359?

You know when you hear–really hear–a song for the first time? When the lyrics hit you at the exact moment you need them to?

That’s how I’m currently feeling about Lauren Daigle’s “You Say.”

It’s a song I’ve put on during moments of spiritual reflection, a song I find absolutely beautiful, and a song that I didn’t know how much I needed until this past weekend.

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Sunday

I was trying to rest, but I just couldn’t calm down. I had my earbuds in, only half paying attention to the sounds coming out of my phone speakers. A powerful wave of anxiety had taken over and I couldn’t stop it.

It was so loud.

Whatever song I’d been playing finished. I scrolled through my music library and stopped when I came to artists under “L.” I tapped “You Say,” closed my eyes, and tried to breathe deeply.

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough. Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up.

The moment I heard that first line of the song, I felt the tears slip from my eyes. The lyrics described my emotions perfectly.

At twenty-something years of existence and in a weird place career-wise coupled with the pervasive nature of social media and the ability to click through everyone else’s “highlight reels,” I’ve been driven by fear and the pressure to perform lately. I’ve been consumed by it.

And all I’ve wanted is for it–the negativity, self-doubt, what-ifs, and fear of failure–to go away.

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I’ve prayed for this–admittedly, sometimes half-heartedly–but it still remains. And the anxiety still hits–usually when I’m trying to fall asleep or just waking up. But Sunday felt different.

The fear of failure, what-ifs, negativity, and self-doubt–the lies–were still there. But God was there, too.

For the entirety of that song, and even after, I felt His presence. I felt Him saying, “I know you’re going through this difficult time, but I’m here. And I’m bigger than this, than any fear or anxiety or negativity or what-ifs or self-doubt, give these things to Me.”

And I listened to the lyrics and I cried some more.

You say I am strong when I think I am weak.

In You, I find my worth, in You, I find my identity.

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet.

You have every failure, God, and You’ll have every victory.

And I think this was exactly what I needed.

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One of my favorite writers, Hannah Brencher says, “Thank your limp,” or “Thank the thing that makes you need God more.” (A Side note: Go follow her, she is seriously amazing and she writes about a host of topics–faith, social media, mental health, the importance of community–so well). 

I don’t know how you feel about God, reader, but I do know that we each need to be reminded of our own worth and that we were made for more than anxiety, self-doubt, negativity, what-ifs, and fear of failure.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t struggle with these things or that we don’t sometimes feel consumed by them or that we say a prayer and things are instantly better. It means that we’re all human, we’re all imperfect, and we should all be kind to each other. Christian or Atheist, I think we can all agree that love is bigger, louder, and more impactful.

With that in mind, let’s speak words of positivity over ourselves and others, let’s remind ourselves of our worth, let’s lean on God in our lowest moments, and let’s bring His love to everyone we encounter. 

Our world could always use more love.

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In loving memory of J.P. (1952-2019)

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The world is mean and dark enough. Let’s be the love and the light.

Today started off as a normal Sunday for me.

I woke up, read my devotional, retrieved email, and checked social media. I was scrolling through my feed, glossing over most of what I saw until I noticed one particular post.

A singer that I like shared mean comments people made about her weight after a concert she’d just played. They even went so far as to include pictures to reiterate what they were talking about.

I cringed internally, debating whether or not I should share her post with my take on it. After a few minutes, I wrote a brief quip and posted it to my timeline. I told her I didn’t understand why people decided to say something mean, that I like what she’s doing in the music industry, and that I think she’s beautiful exactly as she is. Then I closed out of my social media accounts and continued on with my day.

But those mean comments stuck with me.

And I know that’s because I’ve been through similar things, albeit on a much smaller scale. I’ve had people say mean and unflattering things about my weight, my hair, and outfits I’ve worn and it’s made me feel bad, upset, and even angry. Worst of all, it’s made me feel insecure at times, too.

As a young woman, body confidence can be tough. Some days, I wake up and I feel great–my hair looks good, my skin is clear, and I’m wearing an outfit I really love. Others, I style and re-style my hair over and over, but it doesn’t look the way I want it to; or my face is breaking out and I’m focusing on all the zits and redness I see; or I put on an outfit from my closet and it’s too big here or too tight there, and I don’t feel great at all. And I don’t want to go outside and face the world.

Especially when the world wants to be mean. I honestly don’t understand why some people feel the need to make mean comments that they know will hurt someone else, whether that’s face to face or from behind a screen. We’re all human. We all struggle with confidence and certain insecurities. We all have days where these things might not bother us as much and days where they’re all we can think about. We all have feelings. 

And if we know that there’s a particular insecurity we struggle with–like weight, for example–then why would we look at someone else and criticize them or pick them apart? Why would we say or do something that we know might ruin someone else’s day?

I’m not sure if you can answer this question either, reader, but here’s something I am sure of: a little kindness never hurts. Treating other people with respect is cool. Being nice–genuinely nice–is vastly underrated. And being mindful of other people’s feelings? That’s super important.

If you know saying it will hurt someone–because you’ve been there and you know how it feels–then don’t say it. If you don’t think your parents or friends would be proud of you for doing it–then don’t do it. The world is mean and dark enough. Let’s be the love and the light.

Let’s judge less and show more empathy. Let’s talk less and listen more. Let’s stop bullying and start cheering for one another. Let’s spread kindness, not rudeness.

Most of all, let’s think about the gravity of our words and actions.

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This could be the start of something new.

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And magical.

And life-changing.

Just like that opening scene in High School Musical where Troy and Gabriella meet and sing together for the first time.

They have no idea how much their worlds are going to shift or what pushback they’re going to face, but in the end, they figure out who they’re supposed to be and what their dreams are.

I hope that by the end of 2019, I can sit down and re-read this blog post and say the exact same thing.

I hope I can say that every ounce of pushback–every struggle–was worth it.

That I figured out who I’m supposed to be and what my dreams are.

That through every achievement and every setback, I continued to grow as a person. That I learned something. 

But, for now, I think I’ll keep fighting and keep working hard.

I’ll keep challenging myself.

I’ll keep hoping.

Cheers to the new year, new opportunities, and a new book full of 365 blank pages.

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Time

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One of my favorite albums turned six this week.

While that may not seem particularly significant, let me elaborate.

I associate different seasons of my life based on what music I listen to. My experiences, emotions, the important lessons I learned. Pushing “PLAY” is like a floodgate of memories; with each song that spills out of my phone’s speakers, I think back to who I was and what I was feeling then.

This album takes me back to my sophomore year of college. To working on a group project for my Psychology class with three other girls on the ground floor of the library while this album played in the background. To crying at two AM when the boy I considered my best friend abruptly cut me out of his life for his girlfriend. To long walks to class, and a concert stalled by a severe lightning storm that I attended with my cousin.

That time in my life feels so foreign to me now. Almost as if I’m watching it on a movie projector. In black and white.

I’m a different person. I’ve grown and changed a lot. I’ve realized important things that I didn’t then.

But in many ways, I’m still the same. I still feel the same emotions listening to this album now. I still miss laughing with those three other girls on the ground floor of that library. I still miss talking to that boy about music.

And I think that’s okay. The memories don’t always die, but they’re not so painful. There’s a nostalgia and a yearning there, but also the acknowledgement that the past can’t be reclaimed from six years lived.

Because now, I have a new album on repeat. And memories of texting with a new friend about it. Of going to a concert together and dancing until our feet hurt. Of living so in the moment that it feels like the ground will never crumble out from underneath us again.

And it’s been beautiful. And awesome. And I don’t want it to end.

I hope in a few more years, I’ll be singing along to another new album in a stadium full of thousands of people. I hope I’ll be texting with this friend again to ask, “what do you think of this album?!” I hope I’ll have new music to connect with this particular period in my life.

And I hope that then I might have grown that much more and learned that many more lessons I can write down and reflect on on a Sunday morning two or so years later.

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