Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thoughts on "Good Enough"

Darcy wrote a really nice recap of his IAJE experience, you can read the whole thing here, but there is one section that really stood out for me:

"The jazz tradition isn't about elements of style or a particular harmonic or rhythmic vocabulary, and it's not about some bullshit notion of "progress" in music, either, where "progress" = "increasing density" -- it's about having the fortitude to get out there and make a heartfelt personal statement that only you can make.  You want to honor the legacy of Bird or Miles or Trane or Mingus -- honor their searching, individualist spirit.  Study the past but make YOUR OWN music." [emphasis mine]
-Well spoken sir!

For a long time I put off making my own music.  At first, I felt it was more important to study the masters at the expense of all else.  I still feel this is a valid way to STUDY music, but not to be an active participant in the music.  I put off bringing my tunes/charts etc around to gigs and I would never program a whole set, let alone, a concert of my music.  My reasons for this were "it's not good enough".  I think I used to equate (and I still can if I'm not careful) "good enough" with "sounding like X".  I have come to terms with the fact that I will never sound like Trane/Wayne/Newk/Joe/Bergonzi/Lieb etc, but I can, will, and do sound like me.  As DJA says above, only I can do that.  

There was an interesting discussion going on in the comments section of my post "You're Doing it Wrong".  My Sister-in-Law, who is an author and has thoughts about this same type of thing, had a lot to say about the idea of "good enough".  Here is an excerpt:

 "Well I think getting to the point where I can say it is okay to be "good enough" - putting that enough on the end really helps.  But I think what helps me to get to that "good enough" point are two things - reading other writers and how they write - learning that there is no "right way" to do it - and reading many, many books and being able to see that I write as well as or better than a lot of authors who have already been published.  Although being able to see that means ignoring the emotional part of me that says how - horrible, stupid, idiotic, etc... - my writing is and getting to the more objective part that can assess those kinds of things."

What I am coming to realize is that waiting until it is good enough is important, but being objective about that point is MORE important.  It can be a double-edged sword as "good enough" can give one license to move on from or abandon the work before it is ready while "not good enough" can become a cop-out, shield to hide behind, and ultimately the sand that we bury our artistic heads in.

If we as artists put our minds into a quiet objective place, chances are we'll see that much of our work IS "good enough" and deserves to be put out there.  

As one final word about The Madness, I'll say that the most inspiring thing for me was hearing and seeing so many artists that, I'd guess have or continue to struggle with, this putting it out there.  It's time for more of us to do that.      

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