Lately I’ve been thinking about priorities. The fact is that time is finite. It’s impossible to do everything. Sometimes I wish that I could. Sometimes I also wish that I could sleep for a week. Priorities.
Balanced time-management is not my greatest strength. I often become hyper-focused on many things in quick succession. I lose track of time. I listen to my instincts and do things in the moment, usually without much planning. I get so focused on what I’m doing that I often neglect other important things. Like self-care. And people who need me (sometimes small people). But I get everything done that I need to get done. And I consider that a win, pragmatism be damned.
Pragmatism be damned. That’s been something of a motto for me. Like, I booked a show 6 hours away but that’s no big deal. I’ll make it work. Or this thing I thought I could do myself is causing me weeks of stress but that’s no big deal. I’ll figure it out. In some cases, that kind of approach has paid off. Getting signed to an amazing record label, for instance. Or figuring out how to go on tour with a 1-year-old. In both of those cases, it was because I made those things a priority.
What I’m realizing lately is that not everything has to be a priority. I have the power to choose what I spend my time and energy doing. And that means that sometimes the priority can be self-care or nutrition. That means that a career opportunity with a bigger return can take priority over something with a return that’s smaller.
What does this look like in real life? I don’t know yet. I haven’t quite put it into action. But I’m starting to.
I think what it means is that I want to push for opportunities and experiences that provide a return that equals or exceeds the investment that I’m putting into it. That means that I prioritize shows that have a built-in audience over shows that don’t. That means that I try not to spend more money to play a show (transportation and hotels) than I’m going to make to play it.
It doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you put in more than you get back. And sometimes what you get back is a little delayed. For the first three years working as an artist I definitely put in way more than I got back. I moved mountains to play bar shows in far away cities where I got paid little to nothing. I moved mountains to play bar shows in far away cities where I sometimes played for the bartender and no one else. It felt constantly like I was running a deficit. From my vantage point now, I can see that all of those ‘payments’ were like money in the bank. They laid a foundation for the next level. It’s true what they say – sometimes you have to pay your dues. It’s a trial by fire. It’s a test of how much you really want it. It’s a test of faith.
I am in a place where I feel like I can be a little bit more selective about what I choose to do. I am very thankful for that. After 3 years of booking shows, it’s finally getting easier. Talent buyers actually answer my emails. Sometimes people seem to really want to have me play. Sometimes opportunities come to me, unsolicited. It’s incredibly gratifying. It’s something I used to wish for. This gives me the confidence to be smarter about expenditures of time and money. It’s a luxury that I appreciate. I don’t feel quite as much like I have to move mountains for any opportunity, no matter how small. I want to be efficient. I want to make the most of my resources. I want to enjoy the process. I want to prioritize activities, meetings, shows, and projects that bring me joy. I want to build something intentionally. I want to be able to admire its shape.
Afterall, you can’t do everything.