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February 2024
Vol. 23, No. 5
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Smoke Signals

You Can Do It!

by Jeff BerkleyJanuary 2024

Well, in just a few days, we say farewell to 2023 and hello to a new year. We give these calendar dates such weight when they don’t actually mean anything in the grand scheme of things. One minute it’s one year and the next it’s another. The year really doesn’t change like that. It happens slowly. It’s a gradual change where we don’t feel that much—like a lobster when it’s boiling to death. As I move through this life, those arbitrary calendar moments are meaning less and less. I’m starting to lean into the rhythms of nature and the universe and all that. I guess I’m extremely thankful for that. It’s one thing I’ve definitely been working on this year.

For me, this has been an incredibly humbling and rewarding year. We all hope our peers are watching and I had huge confirmation of that for me this year. Having those around you tip their hat and say hey, we see you, has always been so fulfilling. I’d very much like to take this opportunity to just say thank you, San Diego. Y’all really put your arms around me this year. I’m so honored to be a part of this family. I’d like to just take a moment to encourage you all!

You can do it! The thing. I know it’s haunting you. I know it’s in there and you gotta get it out. It’s been spinning and spinning around inside you until it’s become its own universe and spun into a tight, shiny, bright ball of energy and it’s ready to ignite! There’s nothing we can do to stop it. There’s nothing we SHOULD do to stop it. All we can do is get it out into the world and thank goodness the Internet makes that possible!

I encourage you to let go of what you think success is and lean into just being honest and pure about your art. For that matter, I guess we’re all learning how to be honest and pure about all things.

To be clear, I’m not saying don’t do what it takes to be ready for the business part of what we do. We need to be out there and ready to be embraced by whoever is looking. That’s been a huge part of my last year. I had no idea how terribly confusing my “Internet footprint” was, but I have a plan in motion and have been hugely successful in identifying what needs to be done, and I’m on my way to achieving that goal. I want to reflect a pure and honest, artistic personality. Authentic and magical at the same time. I’ll get there.

As we look forward to the next dozen months, I just want to say that what you do is about who you are, and it’s important to infuse yourself and open your heart and be vulnerable in your art. I think if you go look and listen to the things that inspire you, you’ll realize that that’s the common thread. Honesty and vulnerability. I know, those are the two hardest things in the world to achieve. You can do it!

As the old world music business falls away and the new way is illuminated, I have crystallized my reasons for what I do. It’s not for any other reason except that it’s what I do. It’s what I have to do. I can’t move through this world and universe without creating. I don’t know why and sometimes it’s just flat out embarrassing. Like I’m standing up there going “oooohhh, look at me.” It’s what I do. The sooner I get over that, the better. While I have folks’ attention, I hope to give them something to take with them that will help them later—when it’s dark and lonely and there’s no one else around except that song you heard the other day. That’s my best hope for success. We can do this. We can just focus our attention on that.

I wonder what would happen if everyone started to make their art for others’ edification by making it about their own healing. The things we sing and paint and speak about sometimes sound like they’re about someone else but really, they are about us—our own healing and pain. Being honest about our own scary stuff is what helps others know it’s okay to feel that way. It could be that you feel like dancing or in love but it could also be deep, deep profound trauma, pain, and loneliness.

Who you are is where your authentic work comes from. I can’t wait to see what y’all come up with this year! Happy New Year, YOU CAN DO IT!

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