Permission to Pause

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired

As we start journeying into this new year, we all get to choose for ourselves how we will create, express, and share our music with the world over another collection of days, weeks, and months.

When I got into the industry, I thought the main way to get my music out into the world was through live performance. It seemed that was the right path to follow, and I started pouring a ton of my energy into gigging out at every venue I could get booked. When I started, my big goal was to play at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, California. It seemed so far out of reach at the time. When the day came that I was booked for my first headlining show at that premier hometown venue, I was beyond excited.

Over the next few years, I independently booked and energized performances at other legendary venues—Hollywood’s Troubadour, opening for ‘80s popstar Tiffany at Whisky a Go Go, and opening for Nashville Unplugged in Las Vegas. All this for a woman who launched herself into the music industry at the age of forty.

What became extremely apparent to me was that I was focusing way too much energy on the live show performance side of the music business when it wasn’t netting the results and fulfillment I hoped it would. I found I was on an endless loop of rehearsals, pitching and marketing for shows, managing a band, stressing over whether sold enough tickets so we’d get booked again, figuring out what worked and didn’t work with the crowd, and then repeating this cycle month after month.

The truth of all truths is this wasn’t good business. I spent too much energy and financial resources while getting nowhere near what was needed for that arm of my career to be a sustainable and viable long-term option. Artists don’t talk about this truth—the fact that we often end up paying out more to play than we take in. They often keep on the gigging treadmill because, well, for one thing, performing is fun. But more importantly, for independent artists trying to take their careers to the next level, often there doesn’t seem to be any other way forward.

I ultimately realized all the energy I put out for stage shows wasn’t moving me forward. I recognized what wasn’t working for me, not just on the business level of things, but also on a personal level. I knew I was out of creative integrity with myself. I wasn’t spending the larger chunk of my time doing what I truly loved doing. I knew I needed to make some major adjustments. And that’s what I did.

I stopped performing and took a break. I let myself regroup. I gave myself “permission to pause” and admit what aspects of the music business were fulfilling and what aspects were sucking the life out of me. I paid attention to where my energy naturally flowed. Soon enough, in that wide-open space of no longer focusing my energy on preparing for and energizing the next live show booking, I got back to focusing on my first love of music—songwriting—it’s my passion. I love crafting songs, and it’s what naturally flows through me.

Back in alignment fully with my natural introverted nature, I started picking up my guitar again. Inspiration just came to me—lyrics, chords, and melodies in harmony with my truth. I was able to get back to what nourished me again: creating and writing. I was drawn to finally doing something else I’d been yearning to do for a while, and that was, shift my sound and do a pop album. Why not?! I explored and discovered ways to get my music out into the world without being on stage all the time—and hello, there’s a big ol’ world for that to happen.

With refreshed energy, new songs became singles and albums. I started writing and producing for other artists—which had always been a big desire of mine. I also became more purposeful in helping other independent artists navigate their careers. I figured out ways to do what I love to do and remain in full creative integrity with myself. And truly, I feel like I’ve written my best work to date. My forward feels very me! I’m experiencing personal fulfillment, and I’m energizing projects I’m deeply passionate about.

I share my experience with you because perhaps you have found yourself on a treadmill going round and round with an aspect of your music career that isn’t working for you in a way that feels good to you. Perhaps you’re struggling with your forward at the moment and wondering how to get back to your center, back into your natural creative alignment. Perhaps what felt good in the past no longer does. Take the time to look within. Perhaps there are areas you need to energize less, so you can have space to create momentum for other aspects of your career that can produce the desired results.

Perhaps, what’s needed at the moment is to give yourself “permission to pause.”

I encourage you to sit with yourself and be honest about your career—what feels good and what doesn’t. Then, give yourself the latitude to make adjustments to move forward into 2021 and beyond on your unique musical journey with joy, integrity, abundance, and personal fulfillment. You are worth it, and the world needs your truth, your gift, your talent, and your music!

And, if you’re wondering . . . the first single released after giving myself “permission to pause” was “She Roared”–an upbeat, dance-inspired song about fiercely protecting my son and honoring the roar in all women who are simply loving wholeheartedly.

I paused, and then I roared. I can’t wait to see what your pause brings forth.

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Kathryn Cloward is a best-selling author, award-winning songwriter, and Contributing Editor to Guitar Girl Magazine. A prolific storyteller of simplification, Kathryn crafts complex topics into relatable stories, songs, and poetry. Known as “Kathryn the Grape” to her youngest fans, Kathryn is an engaging and authentic performer sharing her original songs with people of all ages. To date, she has written and released nine full-length albums including four children’s albums and five Kathryn Cloward albums.