What to do when you have songwriter's block: WRITE & ILLUSTRATE A POETRY BOOK!
There were two reasons I went down to New Orleans for a month this past winter.
First, to escape the cold and darkness of winter back in Virginia that always feels like it kills a little bit of my soul (otherwise known as seasonal depression).
Second, I went in the hopes of writing a couple of brilliant, inspired tunes to complete the slew of originals for my debut record, a goal that is somehow at the center of my consciousness at all times while also feeling constantly just out of reach.
See, although I'm a lifelong musician, I'm a fairly new songwriter, having been at this for a few years now. I've never been able to write a song under pressure, self-delegated or otherwise.
So after a long bout of desperate "banging my head against the door", as I liken it to, or trying to force those songs to come out, and hating myself when they weren't... I took a break and turned my attention to poems.
Because it seemed like a light and easy and fun diversion. And it turned out it was.
Basically, writing poems became the cathartic creative outlet I needed to escape the stress of my creative work (the irony isn't lost on me here). I wrote a poem daily about whatever was on my mind that day, creating a sort of snapshot of this time with words I thought sounded nice together... some are about mundane things, some are about the little joys I found there, and many are about the frustration of my songwriting process and life in general... which I am beginning to realize is just another sacred and necessary part of the grand journey here.
In the weeks following the trip back home, I went through and illustrated these poems one by one, which led me to reflect on this journey in a way I never had processed travels before. It was such a revolutionary idea to me to take so much time to reflect, instead of quickly moving on to the next project, the next plan, the next shiny thing.
Now, there are infinite facets of creativity and the creative process to experience, to mull over, to interact with. But the thing that currently keeps me up at night is this dichotomy of
working toward achieving Greatness vs. creating simply for the Joy of creating.
See, the former is focused on the product or the outcome, the latter on the process itself.
I feel, as I imagine most creators do, suspended in between these two elements as if I'm constantly walking on a tightrope. If I focus solely on the process without giving as much weight to the outcome, will anyone care about the less-than-great thing I've just spent my energy and time creating? Whereas if I'm aiming for greatness, the process is usually a journey of anxiety and stress trying to produce the perfect outcome... so what's the point?
In our modern culture, where the product is the end-all-be-all, the importance of the journey, the process, and all it entails gets lost in the consumerism noise. And as a result, it feels completely terrifying doing something just for the sake of doing it.
This collection of poems and art and photographs and videos are a product, yes;
but more importantly, they are the result of an intentional, thoroughly explored process...
A process of living moment to moment... then collecting glimmers of inspiration from those moments and transforming them into word and form and shape.
A process of focusing on just the one task, poem or painting at hand.
A process of stubborn persistence, even when vulnerability soaked through the pages and feelings of silliness and shame bubbled up.
A process of faith, curiosity, delight, and perseverance.
My hope is that this project might inspire another creator somewhere to make the thing they really want to make, and to assure them that whether or not the outcome is great, the creative process itself can make it all worth the while.
Banging Head Against Door is available for free in PDF form now for all my Patrons! Join us now on my Patreon for your copy and other cool perks.