When this post goes live, I will be in Ireland, on the first day of a five day tour, with the Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, having just finished a week of rehearsals and recording sessions for a CD of the choral works of Benjamin Johann Ponniah (again with Selwyn College Choir).
Something I sometimes find, especially in the week or two before a show I was really really excited about in the early planning, is that the stress makes me wonder why I’m putting myself through it, whether I am even creating something worthwhile, even whether I’m actually capable of creating anything at all. One thing I find very helpful for this is having other creative projects and activities, for which I am contributing to the creation, but which are explicitly a “hobby” and not work, to keep a feeling of creativity and enjoyment of art going through my life. Amongst other things (e.g. drawing, blogging, writing…), I sing in a choir for this.
There have been lots of studies into why singing is good for your health and mental (and I have found that the studies prove true in my personal case), but I think beyond the physiological positive effects of singing, one of the things which is good for me about being in a choir is the feeling of satisfaction brought about by creating something great (whether that is just a single really tuneful chord, or a whole smashing anthem, or an entirely brilliant Evensong or concert), while thinking about it as being “downtime” or a “hobby”. Being a part of something creative which isn’t your full-time occupation (whatever your full time occupation may be) is often recommended for your mental wellbeing, and I think it’s particularly important if your work is something which might appear to be a hobby to someone else.
Work, even creative work, is hard. Sometimes it’s stressful because we have a deadline we’re worried we won’t meet, or there’s been a setback because a company we were relying on to do x, y or z for us has contacted us with very little notice to let us know that they aren’t going to do that for us , or even they didn’t bother letting us know at all that what we’ve paid them to do won’t be done in time. When we’ve found a solution we feel great, but in the weeks before opening night (/the concert, if you’re a musician,/the artwork being shown to people, if you’re an artist…), we feel very very tense, and sometimes forget the reason we’re in a creative profession at all – that creating something for people to share is massively valuable and rewarding – for us, for everyone involved, and for anyone who receives the created thing (a play, a concert, a CD…). Having a creative outlet (in my case, singing in a choir), where we are involved in the creation, but which in our mind is a “hobby” and therefore, by definition, “fun” helps me, at least, remember how amazing creative work is, even when I’m caught up in the stress of it all.
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P.S. If you’re from Ireland and you’re interested in hearing Selwyn Choir, the details of all our concerts and services are linked above.