“Sometimes I don't know what I will find, I only know it's a matter of time
When you love someone, when you love someone…”
Foreigner _ Waiting for a Girl Like You
A long time ago I had a friend. I met her when she performed at the church I was attending at the time. She sang this song that, to this day, is still one of my favorite songs. She was a talented musician. She worked really hard to get where she wanted to be. She preformed in churches and on television and she made at least two albums. But she found out the life of any artist is not an easy one. She learned that sometimes even those closest to the artist aren’t always supportive, loving, or honest. Unfortunately and unintentionally I was one of those people.
For reasons, I’ll never understand, she highly valued my opinion. I gave it to her freely as if I knew what I were talking about. I liked her music, but it wasn’t as if I was an expert or something. I read a lot about music and I knew what I liked, but I’m not sure if either those qualified me as an expert. To tell the truth, I was a bit pretentious. Still, I liked her music, and I genuinely thought she was talented. Then one day she sent me a cassette of her latest work. (She had moved out of state by this time.) I was looking forward to listening to it. Unfortunately, and maybe this was just me, her latest effort didn’t do anything for me. It’s not that it was bad. It’s just that it wasn’t particularly moving as her first work was.
At this point, I’d like to say that I did the right thing. I prayed for the right words and the right time and the right way to tell her that I just didn’t care for this album. I’d like to say that. Unfortunately, I made a more convenient and more cowardly choice. I simply didn’t respond. I did nothing. The geographical distance made this easier. Then life went on.
About a year and a half later I contacted her to tell her about things that were going on in my life. She listened politely and when I was done, she said, “Robert, did you get that tape?”
“Yes,” I said feeling very embarrassed.
She said, “Robert, I gave that tape to my ten closest friends. Do you know what, Robert?”
“What?” I said, starting to feel worse.
“Not one of my friends responded. Not one. I’m not doing music any more.”
My embarrassment turned to shame. I apologized, but of course it was too late. The damage had been done. That was the last time we spoke. My life has not been easy, but I have very few regrets and there are very few things I would do differently, but this is one of them. But regret is pointless. More meaningful and more helpful are the lessons I have learned from this.
First, honesty may hurt, but it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as hiding the truth. No artist wants to hear that his or her work needs to improve. We all want to hear that our work is great. But that’s not always the truth. We all have room for growth.
Second, and this is something I wish I knew then to share with my friend, the artist, the person with goals, should be very clear on what she wants to do and not let anything stop her. Without wanting to sound negative, she should almost expect apathy, criticism, or being ignored, even by those closest to her. In my own experience, I published a book online about a year ago. Despite having many friends and acquaintances and over 1,300 friends on Facebook (where I advertised the book heavily), I sold nine copies. Perhaps a wiser man would have taken that as a sign to stop. I took it as a sign to keep going.
Perhaps there are more lessons. All I know is that I will continue to Get Started and Keep Going. I wish my friend had been able to do the same. I don’t say this to be critical. I know how hard it is to feel as if you’re not making any progress and that almost no one knows or cares about what you’re doing. But my Muse knows and she cares. That’s why I keep writing – because she keeps inspiring me. Perhaps my friend, wherever she is, will be inspired by her muse again one day. Perhaps she will learn to Get Started and Keep Going.