Creative Versatility: Having several Strings to your Bow

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Having Several Strings To Your Bow

Some days it is easy to write, other days it isn’t. You know, when you have other things on your mind that are taking up time. At the moment I am trying to work on a song for a ukulele group performance and need to practice. Music is something that is really important for my creativity and I have not being doing enough lately.  Having more than one creative passion is stimulating but also means that you often neglect one to concentrate on another and can feel torn.

When you work at one thing for a long time you will become really skilled in that area but you can also at times get bogged down and lose your freshness and inspiration. When this happens it can be very disheartening.  That is the moment to switch and take a new direction or work on another creative activity that you love.  Versatility can be an asset.

If you like to pursue several art forms it is fulfilling to be able to devote time to each and not feel that you must give one up.  When I was at art school I can remember a teacher saying that he had to choose between a career as a classical violinist or a painter.  He chose the latter.  Maybe he thought that he was not good enough to become a violin soloist.  Seems like he was only looking at a narrow field and could still have performed on a smaller scale while pursuing painting.  I wonder if he ever regretted the decision. Not everyone needs or wants to be a “star” and there are other ways to pursue a passion. I play the ukulele and perform at a grass-roots level for the joy of making music and that is enough reason to give my time to this medium.

Having more than one string to your bow is definitely advantageous.  Being able to use another medium as your circumstances change can lead to new opportunities.  There are many musicians who initially went to art school then returned to their art after a music career (e.g. Reg Mombassa [Chris O’Doherty] from the Aussie band Mental As Anything). Or writers who do spoken word performances as another way to showcase their poetry (Melbourne Spoken Word).  You can be an artist–writer-musician-actor-juggler all at the same time, whatever you want if this makes you happy.


The ability to adapt to an ever-changing art scene is also an essential survival skill.  Last week I read a newspaper article that really made me think about how important it is for an artist to be versatile.  The article spoke of how musicians are now performing at private house parties as a way to increase their income in an industry where most struggle because of dwindling CD sales with the increase in Internet streaming services and high performance costs at venues.  Websites (like Parlour Gigs) have popped up to make it possible to book well-known musicians for home performances and to sell tickets to your friends.  Venues are no longer confined to the local Theatre or Pub so performers must be prepared for all types of locations. There are now many new ways to find an audience and while modern technology has led to some areas drying up it has also opened up inspiring new avenues.

I realize that dividing your attention between different creative activities can be rather distracting at times and does not work for everyone.  But if you are the type of person who needs variety there is no need to feel guilty when you jump between areas.  It will keep you creatively stimulated and adaptable.


I have linked a couple of videos : one of a local house party performance by The Grapes (Ashley Naylor and Sherry Rich) and the other of Melbourne’s Vance Joy playing his hit Riptide on a Melbourne tram as part of a program (Tram Sessions) that puts local and visiting performers on trams to promote their music.  Travellers suddenly find themselves sitting or standing beside a well-known musician or small band.  How great to have such terrific acts in you living room and tram journeys would be much more enjoyable if they were always like this.