notes from the road

When in doubt, write. This coming from someone who for the moment has taken a step back from one of my main loves, which is performing music. But, to be fair, before I became a songwriter I was already a bit of a writer, and certainly a poet. Hell, the one degree I have right now is in Poetry. And I spent the last 3 years pretty much silent in terms of writing. For anyone who was following my previous blog, and there might be a few of you, I just kind of signed off. It was certainly a slow fade. I could feel my own creative center just ceasing to be. It was a bit horrifying, but also sort of fascinating. I remember when I started writing songs way back in the 90's, I used to wonder that if I ever lost momentum, would it be the end? I spent easily ten years from my late twenties to my late thirties, writing feverishly so as not to lose the thing. The arc, the trajectory. I had to make sure I worked hard, and that I wasn't letting anything get by me. But the thing about that kind of work ethic, especially when it comes to being creative, is that it is not the whole story. You want it to be, because it feels more or less in your control, but there is so much more out there.

And here, you might be forgiven for thinking that I was going to say something about the cruel world, or how fleeting and nebulous success is, and the cold character of a critical heart. And all of that is at least a little bit true. But the thing that I only figured out recently is that there is you. You are a consideration. It's easy to come to terms with the goals, and the trappings, and certainly the social element that comes with personal fulfillment. And at least in Southern California, which is where I cut my teeth, personal fulfillment (or 'self-help') is its own cottage industry. But I'm not talking about time management tips, or how to network, or how to keep your skin flawless. I'm talking about the simple concept of both knowing yourself, and allowing yourself to evolve.

Because that turned out to be very powerful for me. As someone who from about the age of 17 to somewhere in my 30s was chasing the exact same goal, which was to 'be on the radio', without stopping for a moment to revisit the motivation, it dawned on me that I both knew what it would take to achieve greater success, and knew that I was no longer ready to put in that kind of work. I didn't want to be on the road anymore. I didn't really want to go to any more parties in the Hollywood Hills, just to try not to smoke too many cigarettes, and sneak into the bathroom every now and then to brush my teeth, and pretend I was interested, and hand out flyers, and give 20 second pitches, and just push push push. I just wasn't interested any more. LA burned me out.

And at first you just feel guilty. Guilty because you had a chance, guilty that you weren't trying hard enough, guilty because pain is good. But that is what I mean about listening. Sometimes the only person who will tell you that you've had enough is you. But it doesn't mean you can't come back, and it doesn't mean you failed. It means sometimes that you have changed. But sometimes it just means that you needed a break.

And that is where I was. My first great love was always writing - songs and poetry, and eventually blogging as well, and to wake up one day and realize that I had left what I loved behind because I somehow felt beholden to my own expectations for the future, that was a real catharsis. When your plans for the future are keeping the current moment locked up, maybe it is time for some new dreams. And I'm not talking about delayed gratification, I'm talking about atrophy.

When in doubt, write. I don't need a better future. My present is pretty much perfect. What I needed to do was stop waiting.