Tonight was movie night with my book club (I know “book club”, rock and roll). 5 of us kicked back in our PJs with Maltesers and popcorn and watched The Dixie Chicks documentary “Shut Up and Sing”. The documentary (and the sugar high from the maltesers) really got me thinking about just how important it is as an artist to have your heartfelt vision rock solid.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines made a comment at an England concert in light of the imminent invasion of Iraq under George Bush’s leadership. In throw away chit chat between songs, Natalie made a light hearted comment saying she was on the side of the English “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas” Just that. Delivered offhanded with a smile and a giggle.
In the wake of that comment The Dixie Chicks were thrown off their number one spot on the charts, boycotted by country radio stations who had been their stalwart, protested against, had CDs collected and run over with trucks by disgruntled fans and were even sent death threats. Their Southern country fan base were less than impressed by the perceived unpatriotic commentary and their previously thriving career was sent into ruin. It took the band more than 3 tumultuous years to recover from the incident.
The movie taught me lots about vision and authenticity. The band weathered the storm and ultimately thrived because of it, winning five grammys in 2007 for Taking the Long Way—their reactionary album, which received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and for the single “Not Ready to Make Nice“. But this storm was not easily weathered and watching the documentary I realized how strong her sense of self and creative vision must have been to stay strong through it all.
So here are the things about vision that The Dixie Chicks taught me.
Make sure your vision is aligned with your most heartfelt self.
Natalie stayed strong, defiant, focused, articulate and funny throughout the whole ordeal. She had a strength of character that seemed to guide her through the journey regardless of pressure from fans, record companies and even her other band members.
By knowing who you are as an artist you can check back in when your boundaries become fuzzy, when the haters are on your back or when there is pressure to be someone you’re not.
I spend a lot of time vision setting in my workshops, in fact I hold whole sessions just on this topic because I believe it’s so important. Once you check in with yourself and what kind of person and creator you want to be you write it down. When you’re feeling pulled off track or disconnected from your sense of self you can use this vision as a compass to guide you through challenging times.