Am I really enough?: Living life on the verge of doubt and learning to dive in deep anyway

_MG_4198

Early morning design drafts and posting videos.

“Shame is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about how we are, where we’re from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling, or, believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring (sometimes it’s just as hard to own our strengths as our struggles).” -Brené Brown The Gifts of Imperfection

In May 2015 we decided that I was going to quit my job.

I had spent 3 years teaching in CPS (Chicago Public Schools) as a High School English and Drama teacher, and I absolutely hated most of it.

When I talked it over with Dennis, pondering to myself what I might do with an Education and Acting degree when I no longer wanted to teach or act, he suggested that I come work with him at D’Flo Productions.

The issue? Well, in my mind, there were a few:

  1. I did not go to school for business management, marketing, graphic design, or film editing. I had zero training for this new job.
  2. There were a whole host of people who I thought would be disappointed that I quit teaching.
  3. I also had no idea how to explain my new job to people. (I still don’t exactly know how to do this).

To be perfectly honest, this entire year so far–from June 2015 until today– has been one huge trial and error process, and it’s scary to admit that to people.

The question “Am I enough?” posed in Dennis’ song entitled All I have to Give really hits home during this season. 

You can listen to the song on SoundCloud, but let me share with you some of the most meaningful (to me) lyrics:

Doubt: it’s creeping beneath my skin, eating the outside in,

into a fear that I have never known…

This is all I have to give? Is it enough? Am I enough?

What I have learned so far with living life as a full-time artist is that doubt kills creativity and breeds a crippling kind of fear that doesn’t allow me to get any work done.

Each time I sit down with my paints, or with Adobe Illustrator, stand behind the camera, or hover over the “publish” button,  I ask this question: “Is it enough?“.

And then I ask, “Am I enough?” Because, like most human beings, my identity and self-worth often gets tangled up in my work.

 

Since June, I have gotten much better at describing what I do for a living. Heck, since this past Thanksgiving, things have gotten a lot clearer.

_MG_4205

Baking the hand painted “I am Enough” mug for the Instagram #DFloProGiveAway for Feb. 2016.

But there are days when I question all that I’m doing. There are days when it takes me longer than I think it should to complete a Photoshop edit, or when my well-meaning and wonderful mom calls and mentions that I should reconsider teaching in another district. There are days when the fear of failure or judgement from others makes me too doubtful to even start a project. There are days when I wonder if what I have to offer will ever be enough to make our career grow in the ways we want it to.

What I have come to find is actually something seemingly different than the song describes on the surface:

I am not enough. 

I cannot hope to be enough for all the things I have on my plate. All I have to give is just not enough on it’s own. The key is this little line in the song:

All through You, Jesus…”.

Dennis and I can have productive business meetings, and I’ll still feel directionless.

We can come up with great promotional ideas, and I’ll still be scared to put them into action.

I can get really really good at photoshop, and I’ll still doubt my artwork and photography skills.

He can write the most innovative song in the world, and we’ll still wonder if people really like it.

It will never be enough… without Jesus. 

“Such confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 ESV

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

 

My sufficiency– my “enoughness”– comes from Jesus.

And as I share this with you all, my honest vulnerability allows me to acknowledge my own limitations and weakness and doubt so that I can lean on His grace and His guidance.

This is the only way I can dive in deep with my art and work.

This is the only way I have the confidence to do that.

I know that this is what Dennis means in his song when he sings “I am enough. All through You, Jesus.” And I know that he goes through the same struggles about his work and it’s meaning and influence.

Getting ready to track yo!

Dennis at the recording studio in Seattle.

Sometimes it’s hard for him to hit record, or to step out onto that stage, or to have the confidence to share a new guitar lick he’s been working on. At the beginning of our time working together, he even mentioned being nervous to practice singing in his office, knowing that I was in the house and would hear him.

This is something that we all struggle with.

But not all of us turn to where–or rather, who— we need to in order to receive the confidence in our work and selves that we so desire.

When you listen to Dennis’ song, or look at my “I am Enough” designs, I pray that you will remember that little line in the song that acknowledges where our “Enoughness” really comes from.

And I hope you’ll see that when you choose to be vulnerable, even with just yourself, your strength can made perfect in that weakness. Then you can dive in deep anyway.

Cheers,

Claire Margaret

Rockin’ the Roles

imageClaire here– Dennis and I are both writers, but we both agree he’s more of the lyrics and music writer and I’m more of the blogger, so we decided to, as in most marriages, assign some roles around this joint!

There comes a time in marriage, at least ones which function efficiently, when you need to divide and conquer, as they say. Many people do this in many different ways, and I’m sure many of you expect me to say that there is no right way of doing it. But I would be lying to you if I said that.

I would liken it to a band (since this is a music site after all!). You wouldn’t want your bassist to sing if your bassist totally sucks at singing, and you wouldn’t want your lead guitarist to play percussion if he has no rhythm. God gave them specific gifts, which, with practice, they developed into talents that are unique to them. We don’t just randomly draw straws to see who gets to be the lead singer for the day. We have roles, and most of the time we stick to them. This doesn’t however, mean that the drummer can’t occasionally play the keyboard for that one acoustic song and it doesn’t mean the bassist can’t sing a little back up vocals (unless he sucks…). The band, in order to function as a team, needs flexible structure. Structured flexibility. Whichever floats your boat.

In the same way, marriage also thrives on structured flexibility (that’s the one that floats my boat). God gave women in general some pretty amazing gifts, but he also gave me specifically some unique ones. Just as men have common strengths and Dennis has specific ones which are unique to him. There is a reason why women give birth and not men. There is a reason why men have naturally stronger desires to lift heavy weights and kill things. There is also a reason why I am very organized and prone to decorating the house where as Dennis leaves his clothes lying on the floor. At the same time, there is a reason why Dennis is very good with budgeting money and I am very good at spending it. A lot of it. God designed men and women this way so we would be balanced and so we would learn from one another. And there is no doubt in my mind that God designed Dennis and I the way we are so we would balance each other out.

Now, some may tell you that gender is simply an imposed societal norm which is limiting and wrong and that we should rebel against it by being super angry feminists. And to be honest, a few years ago I would be one of those people. But this simply is not true. If it were, we wouldn’t look differently, we wouldn’t have different… parts, if you know what I mean, and we wouldn’t have different natural instincts that have been around before media and even society as we know it today existed.

However, I am not suggesting that we peg ourselves in as stereotypes as soon as we say “I do”. If I thought that, I probably would not enjoy my marriage very much.

I am not the typical housewife who wears an apron, curls her hair, and puts on pearls just before serving dinner to her husband who wears a tie and reads the newspaper. Heck no! I heavily rely on crockpots to cook meals while I’m at work teaching kids, and my husband is usually playing guitar around the house in his bare feet when he’s not on the road playing shows (still with bare feet), or at the studio producing or mixing something, or out kicking butt at some audition or commercial shoot (probably not with bare feet… but I suppose it’s a possibility). Although he does wear ties and I do like pearls…

My point is this: It took a while to assign our roles, and we’re still in the midst of figuring out what that looks like, but it is something that we’ve grown to find important.

Since Dennis’s new album, “Diggin’ Into Grace” is being mastered as we speak (that’s musician code for “being made radio-ready”), and since said album is mostly about marriage, I thought I’d give you a little introduction on the subject. And also introduce my new role in this whole project.

And that role would be..?

I’m a wife. I’m a cheerleader. I’m a song critic at times, but mostly just a song listener. I’m a blogger, merchandise brainstormer and creator and seller, inventory taker, album art artist, photographer and videographer. I pack lunches for the road and burn CDs, I inspire songs and sometimes help with lyrics. I do all of those things, but mostly I’m a helper. Because in my first job, my job as wife, the helper is implied.

When God wanted to make Eve for Adam He said: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” And upon seeing his new wife, Adam replied, “this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”.

I love that Adam says “at last”, as if he had been absolutely begging God to give him a woman!

God made Eve to be the perfect helper to her Adam, and I truly believe God made me to be the perfect helper to my Dennis.

When Dennis tells me about the progress of this album or about a success on an audition he speaks as if we share the victory. He’ll say “Babe, we booked the commercial!”, or “Our album is sent off to be mastered today”. This is because what Adam said so long ago is still true today. We are of the same flesh and bone. His victories are my victories. My failures are his failures. We are like the band who just started off, practicing in our different roles, but playing the music together as one.

And so too, my blogposts are his blogposts. So I guess I’ll sign out with love as….

-Claire and Dennis

How do you make an album as an Indie Aritst? Part 1/6 – The first steps of Pre-Production

SongwritingWith a new album on the horizon, I get a lot of fans, friends, and family asking me about the process involved in making a new CD.  I wanted to answer those questions in a blog, but there is too much to discuss in a single sitting.  This said, I have decided to split it up into three phases, each with two parts: pre-production, production, and post-production.  Here then is part 1 of 6, the The First Steps of Pre-Production Phase.

The first question to ask is, Do you need to make an album?  For some the answer maybe no, and you can save yourself a lot of money, time, and stress by taking another route.  There are a lot of musicians around who are releasing EP’s, singles, music videos, etc.  For example, one of my favorite musicians is Ryan O’Neil of Sleeping At Last.  He hasn’t released a full length since 2009, but he’s creating TONS of music.  Check out his Atlas series…

All albums begin and end with the music; there is a whole bunch of fluff in between (budgeting, financing, packaging, distribution, etc), but as an artist the heart of any new CD is the songs.  This is always where I begin and where I suggest my clients start, with the songwriting.  I feel, as songwriters, it is our job to put out great tunes with well polished lyrics.  Spoken-word World Champion Buddy Wakefield helped me establish my writing habit when he told me that he will spend up to 6 months on a single 3 minute poem; he told me he rakes through each line and removes any cliches he can find.  This is essential!  If you find yourself using phrases or words that are in every other pop song, change them.  Don’t settle for less than perfect; if a song needs to be re-written, don’t be afraid to scrap it all together and start over.

Once you have your songs written and ready to go, you need to make a few decisions.  What are you going to do with the album?  Do you want to try and get your songs on radio/television, or is it something you’ll give away to your fans at shows and online?  What you plan on doing with the album will determine your next step.

For my newest album, “Diggin’ Into Grace”, I wanted to put together a full length album that was radio ready, with the potential for licensing and nationwide syndication.  This said, I knew that I needed to find excellent engineers, musicians, and a great studio with the best equipment I could afford.  Although the cost of production has decreased significantly in the past 10 years, with the release of cheaper Digital Audio Workstations, Plugins, Interfaces, etc., it is till expensive for an indie artist; $10,000 may not be pennies to a record label, but to the average Joe Shmo that is a lot!

Next you’ll want to put together a budget.  In the next blog, I will break down the specifics of a budget using my own as an example…

Until then,

– D