Putting it “Out There”

coffee notebook pen writing

A topic of fixation in our hyper-connected world is web presence. The metric of success personally or for business can be measured in likes, views, retweets, and trending. As a self-identifying introvert, I find myself caught between sharing my passions and interests and protecting myself from the inevitable exhaustion of feeling constantly scrutinized.

As a musician, I find it challenging to “submit” a project to this public space. For one, the standard of perfection that is expected for recorded music makes it challenging to achieve an acceptable product. But on a deeper level, I have come to discover that I never feel ready to post for another reason: I never feel like my product is ever “finished”.

The pursuit of maintaining and refining the fundamentals of brass production is a bottomless pit. A feeling of incompletion nags every long tone session. New tendencies need identification and diagnosis, while old habits look for opportunities to sneak in through the back door. Why post anything at all if you can do better? It isn’t just the imperfections in a particular performance, but the dormant potential that one more week of grinding might cure that persistent hangup.

During quarantine, when the world of live performance came to a dead stop, I found myself searching for a sense of purpose, or at the very least a project to occupy my mind. I have never thrived when left to practice in a vacuum, and without the regular projects and programs to prepare it didn’t take long to feel burnt out and exhausted. I felt driven to build and create, and endlessly chasing the sound and facility I wanted in my horn playing was not satisfying when my only outlet was my practice room.

Enter: The Flatiron School

My search for a project to divert my energy led me to the Flatiron School. They offered a zero to hero online course promising proficiency as a front and back end web developer. I jumped straight into their free “Bootcamp Prep” course for software engineering, and was soon addicted to the satisfying green text of a passing test. After some study and practice, I could make things happen with a simple line of code, and a solution to any problem could be found in the lesson material or in easily searchable online guides. I applied for the self-paced program and dove head first.

Maybe not surprisingly, my resistance in sharing my musical projects was quickly manifest in my programming. The scale of what I knew how to do as a baby programmer was constantly dwarfed by the remaining curriculum, immense online community, and sheer number of languages I wouldn’t be learning through the program. I avoided the school’s Slack channel and study groups, unwilling to interact and discuss topics I had not yet mastered. I found myself in the same bottomless pit, frozen by a feeling of inadequacy.

Fortunately, the Flatiron School’s holistic program includes one-on-one sessions with educational and career coaches. A recent session with my coach (Thank you Valerie!) gave me some important perspective on my goals in the Flatiron School, which I hope to also apply to my work as a musician and web designer.

No project exists in a vacuum

Very few roles in life are truly isolated. We all depend on others to thrive. Cultivating a supportive community can provide numerous benefits, including support when the going gets tough. Both music and programming are necessarily collaborative pursuits, and that skill of collaboration needs just as much practice as the fundamentals of either.

The goal is growth, not perfection

Pursuing perfection has been a fickle and frustrating objective in music, and this reluctance to share my efforts until I am completely satisfied has been a significant mental block that has translated to many other parts of my life. With that in mind, I am enthusiastic about using this platform to share my progress as much as my products.

I hope this overly long post will serve as an inspiration to others who feel the same way. Be empowered to share what you do and love.