My Dragon Slayer Tools

Photo by Jeremiah Tran

Photo by Jeremiah Tran

In the previous blog “The Dragon at the Dressing Room Door” I wrote about my experience with criticism post performance.  In this blog I wanted to share my tools in the days and weeks that followed that turned me away from the cave of shame and self criticism and directed me towards my own authentic creative life.

Don’t water what you don’t want to grow.

Don’t water the toxic story.  Box it and set it to the side as the truly isolated incident it is.  Don’t replay it, don’t role play “what I should have said”, leave it.  You don’t replay your moments of praise over and over, why replay the criticisms as if they are more worthy of your attention? If you don’t want a plant to grow don’t water it.  Telling the event over and over to anyone who will listen will only water it  and create more energy around what your stewing about.  I starved this Dragon and this story until it died.  It had no audience so it became dust.

When you get s#%$* on, start a compost pile to grow something good.

Two weeks later when I did talk about it, it wasn’t to try and convince my fraud gremlin that none of it was true.  I talked about it with a class of adult singers I was teaching as a tool in banishing the gremlins we have.

Be scrupulous with the energy you allow into your personal space.

Artists are delicate and when you are in a creative space you need to protect your space and be judicious of who you let in.  Needless to say I will be more selective at my dressing room door in the future-and more aggressive to move on a dragon.

Dragon Slayers need a round table of knights

Have a few people you can go to who are your protectors.  The ones who support you, who look after you and who will be fully on your side.   Don’t let and external attack become a lone internal battle.

Photo by Erich Ferdinand

Photo by Erich Ferdinand

One month later I can finally write about it and it holds no real power over me.  The dragon gave me an unpleasant foul dinner to digest and I am proud and strengthened at how I taste nothing of her now.  I look back at it and I am grateful in an odd way that I was tested and passed.  Through this I discovered that I cannot be laid as low by the gremlins as I was in my early career.  I have had a chance to test my skills in taking my power back, and I have the opportunity to share it with you.

I tell my clients then when they get something they don’t want, it is always a chance to learn.  I walk that talk.  I didn’t’ want what she had to give me, but I am stronger for having faced it and I have learnt.

In the spirit of our common shared experience, I would love to have some input as to how you have dealt with the ‘dragons’ in your life.  If you have a story or a piece of advice to add to the dragon slaying tool list, please add it in below in comments.  I’m also looking for guest bloggers on this topic.  Share your story with others and disempower the story and empower another person!

6 Comments My Dragon Slayer Tools

  1. Michele Capalbo

    Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for sharing this. I guess the easiest way for me to slay the dragon(s) is to recognize whether or not the dragon has earned the right to impose their opinion on me. If they haven’t earned the right and don’t have the intelligence, talent and experience to back them up, then it’s easy to imagine Puff the Magic Dragon going up in smoke.

    Now, if you’re working with someone who HAS earned the right to critique (a conductor or director), then we sometimes need a minute to put our egos aside and see if their input has merit. Can we embrace a new way of looking at the music, character or voice? Recreate those things in which we’ve invested so personally, change that which we’ve come to think we can control or which defines us? Often growth is painful. After we’ve done the preparation there comes the time for collaboration. We owe it to ourselves to ask the questions.

    Qualified or unqualified input aside, there are those rare creatures with soundtracks or movies playing in their heads that we can never match. This becomes an exercise in frustration and futility.


    1. Rebecca Hass

      Thanks for bringing up the very valid point that some comments need to be heard, and to improve or grow we must be willing to change. It is crucial as an artist to learn to identify those who, as you say, “earned the right” to critique. I might say that a framework for this is identifying those who have your best interests as their motivation. I also found my experience with this taught me that time and space from criticism also really helps me sift through what I need to hear, and what isn’t of value. Thanks for so thoughtfully responding to the article.

  2. Dan

    Good thoughts-
    I believe frustrated performers make the most powerful dragons. Performers who can take something from these types and keep on slugging in turn become that much more powerful.

    Unfortunately, that ‘hardening’ can lead us all to ultimate dragonhood ourselves in this professio

    1. Rebecca Hass

      I have to agree that frustrated or disappointed ‘performers’ are the toughest to deal with. They are also often in positions of power in management roles as time goes by. I agree that often these encounters do lead to a ‘hardening’ which doesn’t help the singer or their future interactions.

  3. Doug MacNaughton

    I keep a collection of things that colleagues have said about me and my work that makes me proud of myself. It’s something I’d encourage all artists and creative types to do. For some reason, I find it particularly useful when these positive comments come from colleagues – not that a good review isn’t welcome, but I’ve seen too many reviews that I just plain didn’t agree with. That makes it more difficult to take a reviewers opinion to heart.

    A colleague, on the other hand – when a colleague I respect says something positive about a fellow artist, I listen and remember. (Note to self, among others – make a point of speaking well about colleagues’ positive qualities. It has never done anyone any harm to speak well of people.) When a colleague I respect says something positive about me, that’s another piece of armour against dragons.

    That time you improvised a harmony line and someone said ‘Remember that; that’s great!’ – store that away in your memory.
    When your teacher says ‘That’s a great fingering for that passage – hats off to you’,
    when the lead guitarist says to you ‘I dunno, maybe you should sit this one out; see if you think of anything, but I’ll probably play this one alone’ and then six bars in says ‘Nice!’,
    when the bass player who totally intimidated you at the first rehearsal because he was so stunningly good says at the closing performance ‘You know, you’ve made the most improvement of any of us since we started’,
    when the conductor says ‘Splendidly done!’ – save those moments. Write them down on a special page, keep them in a special file, burn them on your heart!! It’s dragon-proofing, plain and simple. The more legitimate pride you can take in your own work, the harder it is for a dragon to make you feel bad about yourself.

    It’s important not to confuse self-improvement with self-doubt.

    1. Rebecca Hass

      I totally agree. Thanks Doug for those great examples. Funny how much I would love to make a page of valued comments and how much my vanity voice says that is egotistical. Never ceases to amaze me how much criticism seems important to nurse and compliments get tossed to the side.


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