Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Recreated Post

Yesterday, Hal McGee, a great and prolific musician, did a Facebook post with a photo of a book,with a quote from him in it. I found it very inspiring. I first thanked him on that post,in the comments section. Then I shared his post to my page. Then I tried to write my own response to it. Hell, I DID write a response to it. I must have had a moment when the writing fairies came to me, because I was flying by the time I finished writing it. I was feeling so good about it that I tagged a ton of people, including many artists I wouldn't normally bother with such things. Then I hit the button to post it. And it disappeared.

And I bitched, and I moaned, and my head hit the skids, hard. Depressed in a big way for the rest of the day. Chrissy tried her best to help, and help she very much did; but got mentally banged around a bit for her troubles too. Sweets, I love you. Don't know how you put up with me.

Anyway, she wanted me to try again, so I did. I didn't entirely care for what I wrote, so I went to sleep depressed, and woke up that way too. Took care of the kids while she slept this morning. But when she woke up she wanted me to try again. And this time I think I've come up with something worth posting. Not the same magic or heavenly choirs upon reading it, but it functions and doesn't make me want to retch or throw the computer against the wall. With that ringing endorsement, here it is.

While I agree with the general tone of Hal's post, some things are of course different for me. Music is not the only thing I live for, and actually never has been. More generally, creating things- and giving new life and new purposes to old, discarded or orphaned things- is what I live for, on this particular level. These have made up my main purpose, the path that has sustained me through tough times, the way that has given my life a sense of meaning and my self a sense of value. When I am making things I am lost in the action and living for that moment and it feels really, really good. When I am reusing or repurposing things in my creative work, I feel good on so many levels it's hard to describe. It's a little bit of animistic love that projects the idea of not wasting things, of finding use in the apparently useless; salvage, or from probably the same linguistic root, salvation. Salvation in a very hands-on way.
Of course, in the old days I could have just lived for that, but now I have a family. My kids bring a different and deeper level to my life. A parent has two choices: attend or neglect. Every day is a little tug of war between those two poles. I'm not saying you have to hover over every little thing, but you have to at least be aware, even if you're hanging back and letting them grow. Which makes it kind of hard to take time to create in the way that I'm used to. When what you do is dependent upon a level of concentration which demands that you shut everyone and everything else out while you work, it becomes more of an all or nothing proposition when it comes to choose how to spend your time. This is especially true if you and your wife ARE the support system, and can't afford too much child care. There isn't the choice of taking a break, playing with the kids, then going back to work. Running
opposite to this, pulling hard in the other direction, is the reality that childhood moves quickly. If you are busy you'll miss it, and there are no second chances. With that in mind, Chrissy and I have been trying to spend as much time with our kids as possible. That shouldn't feel painful to me but it does, because what I'm putting in the background is an entire way of life. It is a living part of me, it's my connection to the world and feeling like I even belong in it, it's what keeps me sane. I am not active in it to the extent that I need to be. And I mean that for me, on an inner level, not in any concrete way. The world can do quite fine without my work. But I can't. Nonetheless, my kids need me, my wife needs me, and I need me to be there with my kids, for me as well as them. I will sometimes spend all day waiting for a moment's peace or time to work, then find myself feeling so much love for them at night that I miss them and want to wake them up and hug them. This is not a black and white, easy, simple situation. 

Something I liked about Hal's post was that he refuses to be put off by some of the uglier thoughts you might face when your work is done for the sake of doing it, not for a paycheck, and not, horrible though it is to say, because there are necessarily even many people waiting for it. He's proud of how prolific he is (as I think he should be). He is not at all concerned with other people's concerns about too much audio getting out there into the world cluttering up people's choices- he seems to poke fun at that whole notion, to laugh at it. Good. I needed to hear that. I needed- seriously NEEDED- to hear someone say that.Thank you, thank you, and again, thank you.

This brings up an important point about creating that seems to have eluded many people: living as a creating person is a process, and cannot be about goals or projects. Those are what give you the traction to stay on the road, the guard rails, even at times the gas. But projects end, goals are realized (or not), and you are....where? If you are not living the process, you're in trouble. And if you're constantly questioning things like if you're doing too much art (? seriously), are you getting paid, is it worth your while....something will rot right out from underneath you. I seriously dislike having my state of mind constantly undermined by this crap. I'm going to have to stop listening, it's simply bad for me. Yes, I deserve to get paid, damn straight. But I deserve to create without having to worry about that too. I can be bought, but my creativity is priceless to me. Of course I want to be heard; but if I'm so busy worrying about that that I get depressed and stop creating, no positive purpose is served. It is becoming clear to me, with a little help from my friends: full speed ahead, as blindly and blissfully as need be. Let the rest sort itself out, or deal with it as you can. But keep going- for the right reason: because it feels right to do so.


  1. Beautifully written, and it really put things in a new perspective for me. I struggle merging the creative side of me with the responsible side of me. I feel such a pull to express myself through written word, but being a stay-at-home mom leaves me little time (and energy!) to write much of anything. I'm practical and realize that my children will not be children for very much longer, and they need my attention more than anything else in this world. But still, I'm not really whole when I am not creating something. Even if it's horrible, it's still words that I bled out by my own hand so they have to count for something, eh? The truth is, I can't blame the lag in writing totally on my kids. I make excuses. I procrastinate. I choose to watch a mundane TV show in what little spare time I have instead of working on the ideas I have jingling up there in my head. It is hard to find a balance, and I will make a wild guess to assume that it is this way for most artists-whether their trade is music, painting, writing, or any other creative asylum. I put such high expectations on an ideal writing career-one that pays, damn it!-but I'm letting dreams carry the load while I avoid the hard labor. I keep telling myself "when the kids get older I will buckle down and write something substantial". But my soul isn't quite satisfied with that notion anymore.

    1. Thank you Amy. I think most, if not all creative people with kids have to deal with this. I can only speak for myself, while here you speak for you, but together we state the facts and don't feel quite so isolated in the struggle. Which is a very good thing.

      It's very difficult to explain that these activities, which can seem selfish, are simply a part of us, one that can't be shut down without losing ourselves in the process. I have developed all sorts of ways to try to keep on task in at least minor ways, and still be a responsible dad. But some days are harder than others and some days are hell and it has nothing whatsoever to do with not loving your kids. THAT is what is so hard to get across.

      As far as doing things that reek of procrastination and goofing off instead of creating....Look, in an ideal world full of ideal people, everyone would have the strength and the discipline to use every spare moment efficiently. Let me know when we magically wake up there, I'll be looking forward to a new and better me. And I think I'm actually not bad at it! I have a suspicion that a certain amount of what appears to be goofing off actually functions as a sort of lubrication for the mind. What happens to an engine without oil, or coolant? Not good. I think it differs from person to person, how much of this is necessary and what forms it will take. Aleister Crowley, who was one of the most prolific and accomplished people you can imagine, regularly blasted himself in his writings as being slothful, the laziest person in the world. Meanwhile he wrote a huge number of books and poetry on all sorts of subjects, climbed mountains, travelled the world learning various religious and mystical practices from the sources- rather than watered down versions at home- and so on. Thought of himself as a slacker. Could have fooled me. We are often our own harshest judges.

      I do know that hard labor at a creative pursuit pays off in art at least, if not in money. The key is to be a bull dog about it- dive in and don't let go until all the work is done. At least that's what works for me, or has in the past. But that is the very reason I'm having so much trouble now. That is currently an unworkable method. So I am having to find new ways to actually stay productive. If anyone tells you it's not hard, I believe that's easy enough to say, but most likely they don't know what they're talking about.

      Realistically, it's possible you'll have to wait until the kids are older. You may be right about that. If that's the case, don't let what you can't do stop you from doing what you can do. Write notes, outlines, synopses; keep files. Any time an idea comes to you related to one of these ideas or projects, jot it down, and try to keep them together. Read up on subjects that tie in to what you want to work on. Watch t.v. shows that do the same.

      I'm going through it too, so obviously I don't have all the answers. But maybe a small discussion like this can help. It's helping me focus, I know.

      Also, cut yourself some slack: you're writing a blog, and a good one at that. That's not nothing, it's a lot. The worst it could possibly be is good practice, but I think it's more than that. I hope it gives you some pride (it should), and some relief.