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Using Rejection Productively With Arnold Bloch, LCSW Part 2

Interviewed live during TAXI’s Road Rally, 2021

By Michael Laskow

Arnold Bloch: Michael, do you have any questions?

Yeah, I do. I’m a person who likes to get things done and taken care of. I want to know how things turn out, NOW! Waiting to find out an answer drives me crazy. How can people help deal with the time element in the context of TAXI? That guy who didn’t get his song forwarded for the $40,000 opportunity… How do you make the time go faster, or how can members better deal with the time it takes to find out about getting a forward or not or things just not moving along quickly enough while waiting to hear about a placement?

Hmm. Yeah, that’s a challenge. These are not easy things, I want to say. But if you can make peace with the fact at a very basic level that the world doesn’t have to cooperate with you, that will help you a lot. And I find in working with people, whether it’s as a creative coach or as a therapist, if I can remind them of that, they can get to a state of more patience, which is kind of what you are alluding to I think—patience and acceptance. Acceptance is such a big thing. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you stop growing, but it means that you understand that you are not in control of everything, and you might do really good work and it might still not be exactly the right thing that TAXI [or the client] was looking for. As I alluded to earlier, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great piece of music. You can allow yourself to feel great about what you created.

Patience is really a struggle with oneself, but the part of oneself that really thinks that things ought to be happening faster. And I find, and I hope this makes sense, if you think of that as the ego. The ego wants us to have as much control as possible, it would like to control our lives. But if we can accept the many things you can’t control, you are more libel then to have patience. And if you keep working it, keep coming back to your song, write new songs. I always think it’s a great idea to write about what is right in front of you. Writing a song about how difficult it is to wait for something that is so meaningful to you, that could be your breakthrough song.

“You will feel better if you remember that it isn’t really written in any universal book of wisdom that the world has to give you what you want right now.”

So that’s the way to be a creative person. Take something that you are right in the middle of and turn it into something and see what happens. So that’s the creative use of the frustration that I think you are talking about.

But it’s a hard thing for all of us. Not only in songwriting but in anything in life. Trying to find a good mate, being elected to a political office, we do want what we want now. But I think you will feel better if you remember that it isn’t really written in any universal book of wisdom that the world has to give you what you want right now.

Which is a little ironic. And I don’t mean this to put musicians down, but a lot of creative people in general, not just musicians, think that there is a sense of entitlement. Like, I work really hard at this, and my friends and family love it; therefore, everybody should. It’s hard to have that sense of entitlement and do what you’re recommending.

Absolutely. And those people that were really shining stars in their high school, maybe in the high school band, high school choir, or a shining star in their town, all of those people have a very good reason for believing that what they create is always top-notch. Then it’s a big blow when you encounter TAXI, who are at the highest professional level, saying your piece has to really be top-notch in many, many ways.

But, of course, the beautiful thing that TAXI does is also provide the tools to get there, which is what this whole experience is about. And if you are serious about it, it’s an amazing thing. With the Internet and TAXI, you can learn so much of what you need to know about the craft and figure out what other people are doing. So, there is really no reason these days to sit around and just be frustrated and resentful. If you really want to use your time well, start looking at what other people are doing. What really makes the song look the way it does? How does a particular song strike the mind, the heart and the body, make the person want to move, make the person feel, make the person think about something new? It can be learned, but it takes time, and it does take patience.

“If it sticks, it’s old.”

Right. The patience factor comes in because you just want to snap your fingers and turn off that switch that’s causing all that pain. So, while you’re in the middle of that pain, it’s very difficult to see that you need to have patience. They’re opposing forces.

I’ll just quickly add one thing to this, which is really getting about as deep as I’ll go today. But as a therapist, we do believe that a lot of what we do comes from early-life experiences. The way I put it is, if it sticks, it’s old. So you folks out there, write that down: If it sticks, it’s old. Now, why am I saying this right now? Because if a piece of yours is returned and it’s just sticking to you and you just can’t shake it, I would bet a considerable amount that something old is actually being activated for you, meaning some old feeling that comes from childhood about not being good enough. Maybe your dad was a fantastic musician, and you couldn’t quite look up to him, or maybe you were led to have expectations that you were going to be the best, whatever it is. I really encourage all of you to be honest with yourself about that. If you’re stuck, it’s probably that some old wound is coming up for you, and that what you are looking for is some… I like to call it a fame bypass. Looking for a fame bypass, which will enable you to feel that you’ve won, you’re in the spotlight. Now, you can bypass all that stuff that they did to you back then. And if you’re looking for a fame bypass, you’re probably gonna be really hurting quite a bit along the way. So rather deal with what those issues are—whatever doubts about yourself, whatever inadequacy there is, some crappy things that happened to you along the way—deal with those things. So that then when you are writing your music, you’re not doing it to try to make up for something, you’re not compensating. You’re just trying to bring something beautiful into the world, and you have a much better chance of actually doing what is necessary to make that happen.

This is great stuff, Arnold. Seriously, this is even better… I mean, I know you well enough to know that you are a very thoughtful, very educated, well-informed person. But this is great stuff that you’re giving over here; I really appreciate you doing this.

“One of the things about creativity is if you try too hard, in terms of the essential idea—you’re liable to just keep doing the same thing, because people have a tendency to repeat what they’re already familiar with.”

We had a question from Celia Dotson. She asked, “Do you have any tips on mindfulness or breathing exercises?”

Yeah, mindfulness is very much in these days. So, I gather, Celia, you’re thinking that this might apply to your creative process, maybe? Look, I’ll tell you what you’re making me think of, is that mindfulness, as far as I understand it, is really being very present. And there’s a lot of great stuff written about this. Where does creativity come from? Where do great ideas come from? You know, you hear those stories about Einstein who was in the back room and suddenly, boom, e=mc2. You know, it popped into his mind, right? And then, Lionel Richie said that that song that made him all that money—I forgot what it was—came to him in the shower.

So where does creativity come from? We don’t really know for sure; it’s probably a combination of all kinds of last experiences that you are going through. There may be a genetic aspect to it. You know, there are people that just seem to just write amazing things, like Beethoven and those people were writing fantastic symphonies at the age of three and that kind of stuff. But most of us are not like that, and we have to learn. We have to learn the craft, we have to go through the process of trial and learning, and trial and learning, over and over again.

So mindfulness would be helpful as a way to reduce your anxiety, and there are many ways to be mindful. If I understand your question, Celia, I think what you would want to do—and some people do this—is try to get very quiet, put yourself in a very restful state, and from a creative point of view, you might find that in that state, that something can emerge that surprises you.

See, one of the things that is quite interesting about creativity is if you try too hard, in terms of the essential idea—I’m not talking about the craft now, but the essential inspiration—if you try too hard, you are liable to just keep doing the same thing, because people have a tendency to repeat what they are already familiar with.

Actually, I have a songwriting teacher that pointed out to me that I had a tendency to use the guitar in the same way for every song and it narrowed down the range of possibilities for me. He actually had me then put down the guitar, which I was using as a kind of a pair of crutches, and he said, “Put that down and just tell me a melody that just comes to your mind.”

So that’s a kind of mindfulness when you let go of all of that, all those things that are structures, that although they give you a sense of confidence, also limit you. And see if you can through being quiet—maybe take a walk in a beautiful place, sit down, have a tape recorder with you, and maybe just start humming a melody that’s not anything you normally would do, and see if you can surprise yourself. If you can surprise yourself, there’s actually a better chance that you’ve discovered something that is a little more outside of the box. And that’s, of course, what we have to do. If we’re so busy redoing what everyone else is doing, we’re probably not gonna [get things] to pop the way we want to.

So that’s my understanding of the idea of mindfulness. Deepak Chopra put this very beautifully in one of his books. He talks about the field of infinite possibilities. I love that idea—the field of infinite possibilities—and I would urge all of you, if you are feeling stuck in your ideas, if your ideas are sounding the same, where you have always the same approach to doing something and it’s not working for you, see if you can throw that all away and get into that field of infinite possibilities. Try something else, be more playful, be a little more nutty, be inspired by how pissed off you are with your waiting and waiting. Well, I don’t like being pissed off for too long, as you know. Patience, patience. Write a song about how difficult it is to be patient; maybe it’ll be surprisingly good, because a lot of people can relate to that.

Here's something that’s come up from two people in the last 30 seconds or so, and they are both asking basically the same thing: “How do you deal with the Imposter Syndrome, which is something a lot of musicians deal with in terms of being a professional musician?”

I love that; that’s a great question. Thank you for that. So, the Imposter Syndrome, as I understand it, is the feeling that you are trying to be somebody that you really are not, or that you are trying to be someone that you don’t really deserve to be. It might be a little bit different for different people, so it’s good to know where that comes from, right? I mean, you want to try to understand yourself, “Well, why am I feeling that way? Where do I get this notion that somehow, I’m not the real thing?”

Now a beautiful way to counteract that is to remember the story I told you earlier, which came from Julia Cameron’s book, is that actually you can’t be an imposter if you’re writing something that comes from your own actual life. It may not be a saleable piece of music, but if it’s something that’s coming from your own life experience, from your own particular set of skills, your gifts, your genes, then it’s actually not only that you are not being an imposter, but you are bringing something into the world that nobody else can. Just keep that in mind. But if you’re being haunted by a sense that you don’t deserve to be in the game—I’m gonna sound like a typical psychologist right now—that probably comes from dear old Mom and Dad, who might have said, “What are you doing tinkering around the guitar? Do something useful. What are you doing playing the piano? Go up and study your math.” I mean, there are so many people in the world who have been told that what they are doing is a waste of time, that creativity is a waste of time.

In my own life, I know very few people whose parents have really supported their child’s creativity to the point that they say, “Listen, if you want to make this your life, go for it. Go for it if you’re willing to face the instability of that, and all the whims of TAXI and whoever else. Go for it—do it.” That takes a lot of courage to make that your thing, but if it’s who you are, many people just have to do it. You gotta do it.

Then Imposter Syndrome, I suspect, would typically come from somebody who stood on your delicate creative soul at some early point in your life, and you haven’t quite gotten over it yet.

One of the manifestations I see of what I think is the Imposter Syndrome is people who will say, “Oh, yeah, my music’s up on Apple Music,” or wherever, “and I had 12 people from Germany and Slovakia download it.” Yeah, that’s something: Somebody from the other side of the world heard your music, appreciated it enough to maybe pay for a download or stream it, whatever. So there’s definitely some value, and I believe should take ownership and pride in that and feel the reward. But at the same time, I’ve heard that a lot— “Oh yeah, they love me in Japan.” That’s the mantra of rock stars who get dropped from their record label is, “I’m really big in Japan.”

So what are they doing when they’re saying that? Maybe it’s not Imposter Syndrome, but what are they trying to accomplish from a psychological perspective by taking that little thing and making something more important out of it to prop themselves up… I guess?

Yeah, in my mind, Michael, that just speaks to how painful it is to not be seen when you want to be seen. We use that term in psychology a lot—people want to be Seen, with a capital S. So the person saying, “In Japan, seven people saw me and they found me relevant.” You know, we all want to feel relevant. So it’s a way, I guess, that a person is helping themself to feel a bit better, which in my mind would be okay if it helps them to keep going.

The main thing I’m interested in in this work with all of you is that you should keep going. Keep doing what you love, take it as deep as you can, learn the things you need to learn, and if somebody in some godforsaken place downloads one idea of yours, celebrate, why not? You gave something to somebody. Now, if you’re gonna use it as an excuse for just resting on your laurels and not continuing to grow, well, then you’ve limited yourself. If you want to be in Deepak Chopra’s field of infinite possibilities, then Timbuktu is probably not quite enough for you, so you may want to keep working it. Keep workin’ it.

Don’t miss the final part of this interview next month!