Don’t let your artistic vision get lost in the mix -says Connie Lim.
When I was 14 years old, I was anorexic. I was really good at saying no to people.
“No” to the thoughtful classmate’s offer for a Starburst as we strolled to our next class. “No” to the after-school hang at the local diner. “No” to the plates of food my mom would work so hard to cook for us during dinner. It was years after the climax of my eating disorder that I said “no” again, because was a nice break from all the other “yes”‘s in my life.
“Yes” to premed. “Yes” to 11 AP courses. “Yes” to skipping a grade in math. “Yes” to dieting for the upcoming dance performance. “Yes” to any size of workload both on and off campus. “Yes” to various forms of peer pressure, from the dismissable to the destructible.
Point is, my inner voice was stifled by external requests and obligations. I was too scared to speak my mind, because I was praised for being quiet during conflict, or for being amenable to others’ demands. I felt like I was going to burst, but didn’t quite understand why. I didn’t realize at that time that a big reason why I was struggling with eating disorders and anxiety was because I didn’t feel heard, or in control of my own life.
I was starving to voice my own opinions. And this is how I turned to singing/songwriting. Singing onstage was the only time I could really let out my true essence. For the three and a half minutes of soaring melodies and crafted lyrics, I was free. I was sharing who I really was. I would transform into a totally different person onstage. I still am, in fact. The stage and the song give me the outlets I crave.
Life then became a split existence: real life, where my voice was still not being heard, and the musical life, where my voice was the main focal point. For years I allowed myself to avoid conflict, laugh off uncomfortable advances, mute my desire to pursue a life of art, and run from social situations that scared me. On the other side, I was training my singing voice with my opera coach. I was writing and scoring music and submitting my words into competitions. I nurtured my musical voice. I didn’t feel the need to stand up to people who oppressed me, or put me down. I could fly through song.
As I started venturing through the music industry, though, I noticed that my fear of speaking my mind really got in my way. My relationships with my managers and my record label suffered from my inability to stand up for myself. Instead of talking things through, I feared their phone calls, and eventually started screening them. How can an artist succeed if she shies away from confronting or negotiating with her managers, producers, and lawyers? I only felt like I was lost amidst the noise. I needed to beef up my real life voice.
Not only did my career suffer on the business end, but the creativity suffered as well. If I was writing with a new cowriter I would hesitate to say I didn’t like an idea. Or when I was jamming with my band, I would allow for too many of the bandmates’ opinions to mess up the original intention of the song. I found myself the lead singer to a band that was supposed to be supporting my songwriting and vision. Instead, the band sounded like a clumsy concoction of genres. Thankfully that was in the beginning of my career, when there were just a handful of family members and friends there to nod and smile.
Things came to a head when I found myself getting cornered during a recording project. One of the music executives was pressuring me to not bring up changes that I wanted in a song. To keep things as concise as possible, the pressuring turned into something unhealthy, and I found myself unable to stand up for myself. I felt a million knots in my stomach, but didn’t know how to proceed. Because I didn’t fight back, the recordings ended up being released, and I was not stoked on them.
I realized that I had to work on myself. So I started to search for healthy relationships with like-minded people. I found a couple of mentors. I started reaching out to fellow artists that I always thought were super cool, but was too shy to initiate conversation with before. I started speaking up during songwriting workshops, and offering to help the songwriting coaches with social media. I offered to intern for a producer I really looked up to. Eventually, through my efforts to redesign my circle of people to fit who I am, I started finding connections and relationships that nurtured me and gave me the confidence to say what I want to really say.
As of late, I’m in the process of signing on with a producer, who is now helping me develop a new repertoire for my MILCK project. We both are very passionate about empowering the listener with strong and raw emotions. We recently just wrote a song that is the most honest I’ve ever been. I can’t wait to share the tune with you, as it feels like it’s my life thesis thus far. I would definitely not have been able to write this new tune without searching for my own voice outside of the studio.