What's Your "What For"?

What's Your "What For"?

Hello Friends,

☞ I'm writing this as I listen to a playlist I created with My Favourite French Songs. These formed the soundtrack to the twenty years I lived in Paris, from my arrival as an eager and somewhat wild 17 year-old au pair to the days I packed up my three young children to move back "home" to Winnipeg. I am both soothed and gripped with a longing to reclaim the moments the songs stir up... Lots of laughter and loving, red wine and nuits blanches.

☞ "Do you think it's puke or poo?" was how a key conversation started today. This is my life now! What Harley eats and what happens afterwards. Harley is incorrigible. He is a goofy, smelly food-thief. Cleaning up after him is a stark contrast to the glamorous days I didn't realize were counted.

☞ It's incredibly hard to feel connected to a sense of purpose when the very things we do to fulfil it have been suspended or skewed. It is remarkably easy to feel purpose-full when we drive across the country or fly across the ocean to perform for fans and catch up with others who share our values and celebrate us.

☞ Today, I worked on a few different artist projects - revising a grant proposal, clarifying 3-year goals, reviewing a video shoot... As different as each project was, every artist shared a common challenge: setting their intention and expressing it in a clear and compelling way. And yet, the "what for" was in every case, the driving force that gave sense to the rest.

☞ The French have an expression: "Perdre le Nord", literally, "Losing the North". It describes that sense of not really knowing where we are, which way to turn. (It comes from the pre-GPS era when sailors used the stars to guide them.)

☞ Sometimes the only way to find the North Star is to stop, stand, look up to the sky and breathe. It's always there - steady, unchanging. Clouds might block the view for a while, but they pass in time. They can't stop the North Star from shining!

 And so it is with our "What for?"... our purpose. That reason that we do what we do.
And the smaller "What for?" that attach intent to our actions. That turn our routines into rituals.

☞ I have the headphones on so that the music doesn't wake Jojo up. I dance in my seat. I'm close to tears when a melody suddenly stirs a memory, pulls at me...

And suddenly, these jumbled thoughts come together and I sit up with these realizations:

  • Covid 19 has been our cloudy sky. But the stars still shine as brightly as ever... (breathe...)
  • Music is as powerful as the moon. It can create a wave of love, a tide of change,
  • Perhaps it's more difficult for artists to express a "What For?" or even believe it exists when that magical connection of a performance feels like a distant dream... So my own "What For?" is to keep working with artists to articulate your own, to be with you, all hands on deck, to navigate the waters while clouds fill the sky,
  • I don't have to be at a music conference to serve artists. I can do that from my computer, with Harley at my feet. His thrice-daily walks connect me to solutions and beauty. The mundane tasks in my day do not diminish the richness of my life,
  • I'll be home for Jojo's 23rd birthday this week. It may be the first time (we can't actually remember my ever having been home for it, not with all of the traveling I've always done). It's easy to forget the downside to the touring life, as wonderful as those "I feel I'm in a movie" moments might be. But the "what for?" of being grounded is not lost on me...



Many of you are preparing grant proposals, learning new skills, presenting in showcases... As you do, I encourage you to take a step back and reflect on the "What for?" of the choices you're making and put it into words.

For you. It can be energizing to remind yourself of why you're an artist. And if it's starting to feel fuzzy, take a blank sheet of paper and start noting the things that people have said to you about what your music means to them, how it's made them feel. Keep feeding that list and then look back to see what recurrent themes pop up; these will help you assess the impact you make through your music!

For those who'll be discovering your work for the first time, a clear and stated "What for" will make it easier for them to understand the intention behind your action. They'll be more inclined to support you when they share your sense of purpose.

And if you find that you're struggling to express yourself through art, and that your days seem to be taken hostage by an unending todo list, take heart. Stop at times, breathe and look to the sky for inspiration. You may be detached from others, but when you're songs are out in the world, they are undoubtedly doing your work for you, bringing comfort, laughter, motion or emotion to someone you can't see and don't know. It's humbling to think about that...

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I'm glad you are in my life. 

xo Nat


PS. Harley is fine now. Quite pleased with himself... it wasn't too bad, just a few poor food choices.

Nathalie Kleinschmit

Article by Nathalie Kleinschmit

Published 19 Jan 2021