Creator Spotlight: Anne Douris (Bossie)

Anne Douris (Bossie) – Musician

@BossiePerson | | Bossie: Not Pictured LP

1. Did you have / how did you overcome fears that you would fail when you started publishing your work?

I definitely had, and still have, fears of failure when I put my work into the world. It’s scary to put yourself out there, especially at the beginning, when you’re just starting to share yourself with others and open yourself up to evaluation, criticism and rejection. All that stuff can really hurt, and if you really care about what you do, you want it to do well out there. However – failing is a vital part of developing yourself and your work. Good feedback is nice, but it doesn’t test your devotion to your product or your craft.

In the past, I would look to other people (labels, critics, etc) to validate me, and when they liked my stuff it felt great, but when they rejected it, it would shake my foundation, I’d lose faith in myself and I’d doubt all my decisions. But it forced me to look at *WHY* I was doing what I was doing, and eventually helped me to stand by my creative choices, and develop independence. You have to do the work because it is meaningful to you and because you believe in it – that is the only sustainable way to have a creative career. Critics, labels, blogs, fans – other people – are fickle and you can’t look to them to make you feel successful, because they won’t always be there. You have to learn to validate yourself and do it for you. Create your own definition of failure. I used to define failure as being rejected. Then I got rejected a bunch of times. Now I define failure as creating something that I don’t believe in, that isn’t me, just to please others.  I’ve found that I spend a lot less time fretting about being accepted, and a lot more time actually getting stuff done. 

2. What is one piece of advice you now rely on, but wish you knew before you started the process?

Just because you’re doing it for yourself doesn’t mean you have to do it BY yourself. This can be tricky because it takes time to find your people. There will always be other voices weighing in with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, and sometimes they have stuff to teach you, but sometimes they’re just taking your eye off the ball, bending and simplifying your vision, in order to put you in a box with a nice little label on it (this kind of commodification happens all too often to women in music). I know this is cliché, but “inside the box” tends not to be where good or interesting art is made. I spent a lot of time trying to please those voices. The work suffered and it wasn’t long before I burnt out and avoided writing altogether because it made me feel, in a word, icky.

When you’re doing the work because you believe in it, and trust in your unique voice, you’ll be more engaged and be more productive. And the types of people you actually *want* to work with are the people who recognize your hard work, are drawn to your confidence in what you’re making, and want to be a part of it — not to change into something else: people who see you as fully three dimensional, and can work WITH you to evolve your work and take it to new places, not reduce it to a single search term. Those are the voices you want around. Don’t be afraid to invite them into your work when you’re ready.

3. What is the most positive part of having your work in the public eye?

Songwriting is a cathartic exercise for me. I use it to work out my issues, to comfort myself when I’m in crisis. My latest record is basically a letter to myself saying “I know it feels like the world is going to end and you’re overwhelmed and you feel like you can’t get anything right and you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, but you’re actually doing okay and you’ve got time to figure it out, go easy on yourself, you’re not alone.”

The neat thing about publishing my work is that I’m able to reach other people who are having a tough time, who need to hear that message too. Some of my favourite moments have been speaking with listeners, specifically recent grads, who related to the anxiety in the songs, and felt a little less alone hearing someone else put the feeling into words. So much of songwriting is “Hey! I feel this! Do you feel this? Let’s feel this together” – which hardly works if you don’t share your songs with the world.

4. In what way has having your work in the public eye proved to be a negative?

Broadcasting your emotions and trying to have an artistic “brand” can be disorienting. You’re essentially selling yourself. Servicing the work through social media is a vital part of marketing my music. But the boundary between my work and myself is hard to maintain.  Sometimes it dissolves entirely, and I lose my sense of self. Sometimes I feel like I *am* my work, so when I feel like something isn’t working, I feel like my life is falling apart. There’s Anne (me), and there’s Bossie (who is essentially a character), and it’s hard to tell where the line is sometimes. They need to be separate, but I’m just one person, with just the one instagram account and I have to constantly be putting “content” out for the act. Having a strong sense of self and identity is hard to maintain under any circumstances (no thanks to social media) – so this weighs on my mind a lot. But it also fuels songwriting, so, silver lining!

5. What advice would you have for someone looking to get started publishing their work?

Just start sharing your work. Don’t worry about being rejected because sooner or later you have to be rejected and it’s going to make you better at what you do. Share it for free, see what sticks, see where your strengths and interests are – your priorities will reveal themselves to you. Then start investing in yourself. Take lessons, go to therapy, get exercise, go to comedy shows, see live music, read books, play some rad video games, have a little garden. Fill yourself with all of that stuff and process it into work that excites you. Your excitement will be contagious.

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