Make music or make a living?

Is it true that you can’t follow your heart and still make enough money to live on?

How many musicians labor, toil, worry, and obsess about that?  How many suffer the regular admonitions of those more responsible folks around us who tell us to be sensible, you’ll never make money as a musician?

“You lads and lasses should always remember that 24 record companies turned the Beatles down and that John’s Aunt Mimi said, ‘The guitar’s all very well, John, but you’ll never earn a living with it.’”

Is it true?  Must I find something non-creative, less artistic, by which to earn a living?

At the moment, I am beginning a full-time job that aligns with my other education and hobbies; my organizational fastidiousness, love of walking and out-door beauty, fascination with history and what makes people tick. But while I give wholehearted effort at the office for 40 or more hours each week, will I give up my music?

No way.  I will continue to raise young musicians.  I will continue to play and sing for others every chance I get. I’m not going to let go of that piano anytime soon. That would be to rip out a part of my heart and soul.  Besides – I’ll let you in on a secret:

Over the years I have made more money in music than any other avenue I have ever worked. Am I often a starving musician?  Yes. but I have been able to make much needed money off this gig ever since I was 15.



Why hermits should sing

Singing is aerobic. Aerobic activity releases endorphins which promote a feeling of well-being. A feeling of well-being brings happiness. Yes, singing requires an intake of oxygen which is invigorating.  A couple of years back, when I was singing with the quartet, I had to remember to finish practicing well before 8:00 o’clock in the evening if I wished to get to sleep on time.  You may have experienced the same cause and effect if you play a wind instrument.

Talking is a somewhat aerobic activity.  They say friendship talking releases endorphins. Perhaps that is because we feel connected, or maybe because of the intake of added oxygen.  I was reminded of this Thursday night on the way back from an outdoor concert.  My cousin and I rode in the back seat to chat while her husband drove and a friend rode in the passenger seat.  The stars were brilliant and we reminisced about a similar night sky when she was seven and I six years old.  The olde tyme simplicity of conversation left me feeling great.  A delightful evening well spent.  Singing or talking can become downright intoxicating.

Frankly, since I live single, I don’t get a frequent chance to talk just for the sake of getting historic.  No problem. Walking or hiking is also an aerobic activity. Walking in the great outdoors, getting a bit of exercise out in nature is another essential for that feeling of well-being.

So, here’s what I am thinking:  Unless hermits hike about their caves all day long, they need to be about the business of singing.  Obviously, they don’t have cousin Coni to talk with.

When networking with friends is wonderful

I reconnected with a high school classmate, someone I had not seen for forty years. We were never close in high school, but I knew her well enough for several years to feel that she was a solid person and probably was unchanged in essential ways like integrity and sense.

We now get together two or three times a year. We have an uncanny list of things in common. It would be fun to get together often. But, the years have run their course and no matter where we move, we continue to be separated by a few hundred miles.

As our friendship was re-forming, she offered me a side job representing her in a minor way. I was honored that she thought of me.  The duties required a good deal of trust. Though I am sure this was one of her reasons for re-initiating the acquaintance, she did not drop me like a hot potato when I declined.

Unlike the various relationships I criticized in my “Why I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing,” posts; our friendship has continued – without either of us trying to manipulate the other with shame for not meeting expectations; without using and discarding; and certainly without added isolation. Friendships are wonderful. Networking can have great result. Do it right! It is not necessary to use friendships only for personal gain and discard them when no longer needed. 

Patti Hill and Novel Matters; a positive example of friendship network marketing

I love technology, particularly the internet.  I love advancement in design, especially the AC and sound system in my new (to me) car.  And, better than my electronic keyboard, I love my piano – although the technology and design has remained essentially the same over four centuries.

Piano, automobile, internet, laptop; these are things it is difficult for me to live without. Oh, I could walk two miles and catch a city bus to the library for computer and internet every day – though they frown on me playing the piano at the library – but, you get my drift.

You meet all sorts of people online.  It’s a jungle out there. Phishers, foreign princes who want to deposit money to your bank account if you will just give them the account number; amateur political pundits right and left; evangelists sure the sky is falling if you don’t see God their way and others who assure prosperity is yours if you invest money with them.

Happily, whilst steering clear of the friendship evangelists and network marketers I eschewed in four of my last posts; I have met some great friends online. The six women at Novel Matters are representative of those positive relationships. They give encouragement, insight, a look into their private writing lives, times to cheer the success of a new book release, and occasionally an opportunity to spread the word about that book if it suits your taste.  They don’t pressure, shame, disappoint, or make me feel used and discarded. Best of all, far from making me feel isolated, they help me understand I am not alone.

ImageRecently, I was able to chat via email with author Patti Hill from Novel Matters. What was supposed to have been a 399 word article for became two pieces one about the author and the other about Colorado settings.

But, there is even more to enjoy in the uncut interview:

CO (that’s me): If Grand Junction were to honor you with Art On The Corner (AOTC)as they did with Dalton Trumbo, how would you like to be depicted?Image

Patti:  I’m delighted to be a published author. I love sharing stories and connecting on a universal plane of understanding with my readers. So many more worthy storytellers deserve to be out there with their work, and yet, somehow, my stories resonated. But to immortalize me in a way that would underscore my fondest achievement, a sculptor would have to capture me reading to my sons (now men!), them in their feety pajamas, their hair combed into neat furrows after their baths, and the three of us cuddled up with a book splayed on our laps. More than anything I love being a mom.

CO:  Several of your previous books have to do with gardening.  Are you an avid gardener?

Patti: I practically live in a botanical garden, not because I’m passionate about plants but because I’m caught up in my husband’s passion and vocation. He owns a garden center, Bookcliff Gardens in Grand Junction, so our yard has become a sort of test garden for plants. I have to say that loving the man who loves plants has given me a new way of seeing the world and its wonders. For that I am deeply in his debt.

When it came time for me to decide on a topic for my first novel, I took the adage to write what you know and tweaked it to fit my lackluster set of skills: write what your spouse knows. That’s how my first main character became a garden designer, right here in Grand Junction, although I renamed the town Orchard City.

CO:  Tell me about your published books.

Patti: I have six published novels, five by traditional publishers and one I published myself: Like a Watered Garden, Always Green, In Every Flower, The Queen of Sleepy Eye, Seeing Things, and Goodness and Mercy.

CO: Which have received or been nominated for awards?

Patti: Like a Watered Garden was a finalist for a Christy Award for best debut novel, and Seeing Things was a finalist for Best Book of the Year, Religious Books for Foreward Magazine.

CO:  Your newest release, “Goodness and Mercy,” weaves a plot around a Palisade peach farm and harvest.  Your garden series was about – gardens. Are all your books about horticulture?

Patti:  Only two-thirds of my books are directly related to horticulture of some kind. The common thread for all of my books is that they take place in Colorado. The Queen of Sleepy Eye is a coming-of-age story of a mother and a daughter that takes place in 1975 Paonia, and Seeing Things takes place in Ouray and the Washington Park district of Denver. I’m going back to my hometown of San Clemente, CA for my next book. I do believe it’s time to do some more research. Sunscreen, please!

CO:  How has being laid up with foot surgery affected your writing?

Patti:  What writing? I’m hyper-sensitive to painkillers, so I’ve been napping for three weeks. Now that I’m back in the swing of things, I’m catching up with promotional duties for Goodness and Mercy and diving into my research notes for the next book. I’m hoping to get that story structured and plotted by the end of the summer.

CO:  What is the best way to get a copy of “Goodness and Mercy”?

Patti: Goodness and Mercy is available as a Kindle book or paperback on Amazon. Also, Dennis has a supply of all my books in paperback form at Bookcliff Gardens. If you don’t have a Kindle, a free app will let you read the book on a tablet of any kind, your smart phone, or your computer. And the novel is only $2.99. That’s the joy of publishing this way. I can price my work to make it accessible to most people.

Why I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing, Part Four: Isolation

Why do I loathe network marketing and friendship evangelism? It makes me feel isolated, like I really am the only one.

Nothing depresses me more than unrelenting poverty. When I have done my best, beat the streets, thought of every angle (and it is acknowledged I think too much) – and I don’t know where the rent is coming from at the end of the month – or even where my next full meal is coming from, I am more ready to throw in the towel than at any other time.  Relentless bills.  Poverty.

At this end of the rope phase, I consider all the possibilities, I put the word out to friends and family that I am job-hunting. An old family friend calls, “We have a job opportunity where I work.  Come by the office and see me.”  It sounds entry level, but I am ready to do anything.  I will wash dishes, clean toilets, take out the trash before I will go delinquent on my bills, be homeless, or especially before I will use my piano for firewood.

I arrive at the appointed time.  There are pleasantries of getting to know each other once again. Then my friend introduces a way to add to my income; a plan by which I can make money by sharing a multi-level marketing plan.

Can we have a sincere relationship, please? Okay, I know you brought me here to share a good thing with me, not to give you a lesson in  logic, but consider this:  Your product saves money only if I have been using the most expensive services out there. I am already as frugal as common sense can make me.

Many of these plans are wonderful for making extra money – particularly if they are products you buy anyway and you are essentially co-oping. But, if hard times are already standing so close to your door you have eliminated toothpaste or hair conditioner or food from your budget, you are not looking for a way to earn extra money, you need immediate basic money.  The secret is not in a better budget, or better product. The secret is earning money to budget.

You see, I already have a way to earn extra money – it is called persistent music and writing. If I devote as much time and effort to music gigs and free-lance writing jobs as it would take to make cold calls and pursue old friends long forgotten (only for the sake of recruiting them); I assure you, I will make as much extra money working my passion as I would working your multi-level program. 

With regard to friendship evangelists and net-work marketers; I am sad. I really wanted your friendship and friendship is something you didn’t think to give me until you had a money motive or an honor and reputation motive.  You saw me as an opportunity for another notch in your belt.

And now, I am done ranting about the disappointments, shame, isolation; and the used and discarded feeling of Friendship Evangelism and Net-Work Marketing.

Next posts: some friendship networking that builds genuine lifelong friendships.

The Red Pearl Weighs Anchor – Wild Wednesday

This week, I have written about disappointment, shame, feeling used and discarded; all in the name of friendship evangelism and network marketing.  When I return, I will write about the positive aspects of proper and courteous friendship networking. There is an interview with author Patti Hill in the works as well as one more rant on misplaced networking (The isolation of poverty).  But today, I give you Wild Wednesday pictures as The Red Pearl weighs anchor.

Why don’t you sleep inside your car? Commented She;

Then I, following suggestion with creative glee;

Outfitted The Red Pearl with a berth, made just for me,

Now, when the tide is high,

I’m off to sail the inland seas!




I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing: Part III, used and discarded

The place was Nashville. The reason?  Dove awards. Already that year I had been to Christian Artist’s Seminar in the Rockies and CBA Convention. I was a songwriter. My goal was to make and maintain friendships in the music publishing industry.  I had no money to do this on my own, but some mentors who had succeeded in publishing wanted the best for me and arranged for me to be there.

I bolstered my confidence and utter aloneness by dressing for success and headed toward the convention hotel lobby and breakfast. She must have been watching for the likes of me. Her reason for being in Nashville was a business trip with her husband. They had the wealth associated with Texas oil.  Awhile back she had written a few stanzas of lyrics that ought to be made into a song. When she arrived in Nashville and found a songwriter’s convention was afoot, she secured a premium, at the door, ticket and waltzed right in; sat right down.

Her friendliness was disarming.  She wanted to know everything about the music industry. “You’ve done this before?” she asked.  “Tell me everything you know.  Come on, I’ll buy you breakfast.”  Always ready to help and always ready to share knowledge, I followed her into the breakfast lounge. Also, always considerate of budget – mine or others-I ordered a modest muesli. She had an entrée with sides.

As the time allocated for breakfast drew to a close, a music executive whom I knew from previous conventions stopped by and greeted me.  I made introductions. My erstwhile breakfast companion rose and attached herself to him as he exited the breakfast room.  Guess who picked up the tab?

I felt used and discarded. I do not like friendship solely for network marketing.

I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing; Part II Undeserved Shame

Last time, I wrote that disappointment, was one reason I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing. I am an introvert who responds well to the gregarious nature of extroverts.

Oh, I can smile generously and be well mannered, even friendly from the get go.  Stranger or not, I will help you in the moment and we can work together and have fun together. You are welcome in my pool of 50 or more people I am getting to know better; but the minute I feel you are using me, that you pursued the relationship only to recruit me, I am done.

Do not try to manipulate me for your own goals and headcount. Goals, manipulation, headcount, another football decal on your helmet, a notch in your belt; are the reasons I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing.

If I find you have something good to offer, some talent or product, I will not hesitate to pass on your name or promote you. But I will not be bought or pressured. Don’t try to shame, manipulate or cajole a commitment out of me.

Many years ago we answered the knock at the door to find a magazine salesperson. The kind who says they are pursuing a career to keep them off the street. Only this time, it was someone we knew from school days.  We invited the young woman in, renewed old acquaintance, served iced tea. Then, we declined to purchase a magazine.  There were none we needed and we were on a strict budget. She rose indignantly and left saying, “You wasted my time!

Experiences like that make me a bit wary of one who has become an  e-pen pal.  He is a fun correspondent. He has been steadily pursuing common ground. We have found a few similar interests. But, I know this gig. I am waiting for the other shoe to fall.  I suspect this will turn out to be friendship evangelism. When will he pop the question (Are you saved?)?  I could simply answer in the affirmative, in which case he can cross me off the list and focus on other conquests.  Or, I might respond in caveat laden candor that leads to debate. Either way, I predict he will “shake the dust off his feet,” and move on. Given past experience, do you blame me for my skepticism?

I have developed a few online relationships over the past five years. Some with good mutual result which I will highlight in positive posts after I get the loathing out of my system.  But right now, I loathe both the disappointment and undeserved shame of friendship evangelism or network marketing.

I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing, Part I

I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing.   I am always in search of more friends.  I have a couple of fingers left to fill up in that category referred to as a handful of close friends. I seldom run hastily into new friendships. Once committed to a friendship, I am a pretty loyal soul, so I think long and hard about the cost of friendship before I extend myself.

Last week, while working in a non-profit setting, I met a potential soul-mate.  I kid you not, for the first two hours, I thought I was getting to know my new best friend. The energy was there as we began to reveal interests and hobbies in the intervals between working on the project. First of all, both of us love music.  Two; we have grown kids.  Three; we are world travelers and residents. Four; as musicians we play church and retirement center gigs.

Then, as our project time drew to a close, the energy dwindled and my new acquaintance lost focus on the task at hand.  Each time she returned to our conversation, it was to grill me about gigs I had played. We were no longer comparing notes – she was taking notes. I don’t mind sharing my contacts, but her total focus was networking.  All the while, what I really wanted was a good friend.  

I came away from the encounter disappointed. Just one of the reasons I loathe friendship evangelism and network marketing.  Part two – coming soon.

Emulating Elizabeth Bennet, or, Why I like Jane Austen

Chide me not that I stay up late reading.  I deserve no ridicule for admitting a fondness for Jane Austen’s novels. Nay, I am not a hopeless romantic who longs to regress to 1800 A.D. Here is why I return again and again, to “Emma,” “Sense and Sensibility” or “Pride and Prejudice.” 

The books are written by a woman who knew well how to observe and how to put those observations into witty words.  They are about people who learned to live and survive; nay, thrive in a very narrow corridor of rules and regulations of society. They learned to remain family no matter what, to love, to stay in relationship with knaves, fools, charlatans and an occasional prince of a person. 

“Pride and Prejudice” remains a favorite of mine not because I yearn for tightly laced corsets, petticoats, needlepoint, poultry keeping and absence of hot and cold running water, but because I want to emulate Elizabeth Bennet.  I want to continue loving and respecting my parents even when discovering them to be fools; to love siblings though they pursue a worldview or lifestyle different from mine; and to stay best friends even when a life-long confidant marries unwisely.

Yes, how I would love to be like Elizabeth Bennet; to calmly look imperious naysayers in the eye and say, “I will promise nothing, except to act in a way that I feel will most insure my happiness.”