International Choir Festival InCanto Mediterraneo

10 ideas to keep you going when you feel like giving up

  • [The views expressed in this blog are from my personal experiences from 25 years of leading non-auditioned community choirs in the UK, as well as adult singing workshops. My focus is on teaching by ear using a repertoire of songs from traditions across the globe. Your experiences may differ from mine, so do feel free to leave a comment and let's begin a conversation! A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    I’ve been writing this blog now for 10 years. My first post was on 3 December 2006 when I declared that Choirs are becoming cool! (this was the beginning of all those choir programmes on British TV, before even Gareth Malone).

     

     

    How is it possible to stick with something for the long run without getting bored, disillusioned, diverted, lost, setback or running out of ideas? This will apply to you whether you're a singer, choir leader, song arranger, choir member or song writer.

    you need to stick at it!

    When I first started this blog back in 2006, I had no expectations. The plan was to write a post a week in order to figure out what I thought about a particular subject and to get advice and feedback from others. I thought I might last a few months.

    Somehow – and it surprises me too – I’ve stuck at it and managed to write at least one post every single week since then, a total of 587 individual post so far.

    There are many things we need to stick at, but it’s so easy to let things slip. Here are some challenges you might face:

    • rehearse a new song – by singing it again, and again, and again, and again …
    • do a vocal warm up – the same one time after time, week after week at choir rehearsal.
    • perform a song in a concert – when you’ve sung it thousands of times before.
    • lead a choir session – week after week, even when you’re feeling low.
    • arrange a song for a choir – but it just isn’t working no matter how you move the harmonies around.
    • sing in a concert – perhaps many concerts (especially in the festive season) and keep it fresh and new.
    • practice singing at home – do those scales and vocalises like you really love them. Then do it again.
    • teach a song – that you’ve taught to many different groups over the years.


    Even if you love something to bits, there will come times when it all becomes a slog and you lose the plot.

    10 ideas to help you keep going

    Here are some suggestions for staying the course, for settling in for the long haul, for keeping it real over many years. I hope you find them useful.

    1. don’t be too ambitious — set off with a reasonable goal and no huge expectations. If you set your sights too high you will become disillusioned very quickly.
    2. one step at a time — don’t look too far ahead, just take one day/ rehearsal/ concert/ song at a time. Yes, have a plan and a goal, but don’t keep measuring yourself against how far you still have to go. Be in the moment.
    3. good days and bad days — there is never smooth progression, there will be good times and bad times ahead. Don’t be dispirited when you hit a bump in the road, it won’t always be like that.
    4. remind yourself how far you’ve come — when you’re feeling that everything’s a bit too much, look back at what you’ve achieved so far. You might be surprised!
    5. revise, revisit, repurpose — when you get stuck (and you will get stuck) instead of thinking ahead or trying to find something new and original, go back and find some old stuff to recycle. There may be some great ideas that you’ve tried in the past that are worth revisiting. Take an old song/ rehearsal technique/ warm up and make it new again by revising it somehow.
    6. think different — it’s easy to get bored if you keep on doing the same thing in the same way. Try not to fall into habitual behaviour. Keep things fresh by doing the same things but differently.
    7. motivation follows action — sometimes you just won’t feel like doing it. Don’t sit around waiting for motivation or inspiration, it doesn’t work like that. Act first (even though you don’t feel like it) and then motivation will follow. The simple act of doing something will get the creative juices flowing again.
    8. be honest, be vulnerable — don’t keep your frustrations and failures to yourself. You’ll be surprised at the support you will get when you share your feelings with others. People will step up to help or make useful suggestions or remind you that you’re just human and are being too hard on yourself.
    9. don’t be too hard on yourself — it’s so easy to get down when you’re not achieving what you think you ought to be achieving. This happens when you begin to have unrealistic expectations or your goals are too ambitious. You’re doing what you can and that is all you can do, so let yourself off the hook from time to time.
    10. you’ll know when to give up — nothing lasts forever. There might come a time when you’ll want to give up running your choir or being a singer or working on a particular song. You will know when the time comes and be able to distinguish between just going through a bad patch and actually needing to let something go. Trust your instincts.

     

    bonus idea

    11. let other people know what you’re doing — one of the things that has kept me going with my blog all these years was that I made a public declaration that I was going to write a post a week. It’s well know that if you make a New Year resolution, telling your friends and family acts as a great motivator. You won’t want to let them down. If you keep your plan to yourself, then nobody will know if you give up. Tell the whole world!

    how do you do it?

    I do hope you find some of these ideas useful. Do let me know if you’ve found other approaches useful for keeping you going when you’ve wanted to give up.

    Meanwhile I’m off to figure out what to write about in the next 587 blog posts! Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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