Getting to the Bottom of It

This week has been a total failure in terms of sticking to the guidelines of the course.


I am and have been in a weird position or state of mind this week. The bottom line is that nothing really felt right. For the past few days, something has just been off. A bit like that weird feeling you get when a sudden pain shoots up one of your body parts and lets you know you’ve pulled a muscle without even realising it. Only right now, the muscle I’ve unknowingly pulled seems to be my mind, my soul, my life.


Really, I haven’t been able to put my finger on it at all and so I’ve just tried not to let anything get me down and to maintain my schedule and carry on with my tasks as much as possible. I’ve done my morning pages, I’ve done my song pages – forcing myself despite any temptation not to do them, realising that I’ll only feel worse if I don’t do them, and doing these tasks does make me feel slightly better.


But there have still been clouds hanging over me somewhere.


I’ve even taken time out to refresh myself by doing fun things for myself. I’ve played half an hour to an hour’s worth of piano practise every day this week, I did 4 km on the exercise bike while listening to Roy Orbison vinyl (charity shops again). I sat in the car after I’d parked just to stay and hear the whole of a Chopin piece I had on the classical station. I had a great night out on Tuesday over food and beer catching up with some mates I hadn’t seen on at least a year, perhaps closer to two. Afterwards a few of us went to see Jerry Sadowitz  do a small warm-up show at the Oxford Arms in Camden where I laughed so much that my facial muscles were sore and achy.


But the fun, healthy or relaxing stuff hasn’t sorted me out either.


“…when you lay down at night, turn from one side of the bed all night to the other and you can’t sleep, what’s the matter? Blues got you. Or when you get in the mornin’, sit on side of the bed – may have a mother or father, sister or brother, boy friend or girl friend, husband or a wife around – you don’t want no talk out of um. They ain’t done you nothin’, you ain’t done them nothin’ – what’s the matter? Blues got you.” – Leadbelly


Still, the first half of this week I’ve felt out of sorts. I can’t tell what it is. I’ve just generally been lacking in energy this week.


I did whip my own ass on Sunday down at David’s studio in an 11 hour session to finish/redo the last of the tracks we were working on back in July. I had to rerecord all the guitars and bass parts again thanks to a couple of parts being out of sync and ruining the whole groove of the song.

The only other options would have been to digitally edit the pants off them (err… no) or to mix the thing so that the erroneous playing would’ve been harder to hear (errr… fuck no). It worked out ultimately for the best because I’ve been getting to know my equipment a lot better over this period and the song now has some of the best guitar tones on the whole recording now, but it has all taken it’s toll on me energy-wise.


Sunday is usually my day for capping off the week in the artist’s way, finishing all that week’s tasks, doing my check-in, writing my blog but this week none of that was possible due to recording. So I figured I’d get it all done on Monday and start the final week a day later, no big deal. Monday was full of distractions and various time-consuming tasks. To cut a long story short, I’ve just felt exhausted this week and had not only no inclination to do these tasks, but an empty tank of energy with which to overcome any kind of resistance and to push through it.


I started the week drained, exhausted, completely bereft of enthusiasm, as if I was somehow facing an overwhelming problem heap. I just wanted to stay in bed for at least three days in a row. Burnt out and overdone. Dried out from dreaming.


I try and keep an ear out to listen for what I think the universe is trying to tell me and sometimes it’s very confusing. I try to listen to my gut instinct as much as possible because that had been my truest ally, and the part that never steers me wrong when I listen to it. My instincts in this situation, cloudy as they were due to this weird fog of exhaustion, over-exertion and general burnout.


I think this ties in with my chronic lack of doing artist dates for the duration of this course. It’s shocking really. How little must I value my inner artist? Or maybe I’m just so self-conscious about it as if I were some gangly geek too scared to ask out the girl I like, only the girl in this case is the eternal muse…


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It’s like I’ve become a factory worker in the basement of the tower of song.


I have treated myself a bit, but clearly not enough.


On reflection I realise that part of this awkwardness, irritation, discomfort, angst etc is partly because I’m going through another birth of some sort, and these are just some sort of transitional growing pains. But it’s difficult to know what to do about these moods when they fall on you. For me it seems that having some sort of outpouring onto the page can be good for the soul and work.


I’ve been doing morning pages nearly everyday, and hardly avoiding any dark pockets of mental anguish. At least not knowingly, but I guess that’s the key.


I think in a way I’ve been pissing myself off with the morning pages, trying to twist them and mould them to do something else. I’ve not been having much in the way of noticeable or memorable ‘truth points’ in them recently, or even been thinking about that. Nothing like when I started out on them. Recently my focus has been to make the whole thing and exercise in how much focus and flow I can harness at will, to write stream of consciousness, non-stop for those three pages. A lot of the time during the course I’ve started, stopped, picked up somewhere else after my mind has had a bit of a wander, sometimes even after I’ve dozed off back to sleep with my logbook in my hand.

I think that’s also part of the ritual of repetitive processes – you’re basically beating yourself over the head with something until your body/mind says “Ok, I’ve had enough, what else can you show me?” and finds a new way of approaching whatever it is you are doing, simply out of a necessity to stay sane. With the morning pages, if I write mundane repeatedly for long enough (not that I’m thinking too much about it- I just let it come out,) then eventually I’ll be terminally bored of it and start digging deeper with more pertinent baselines of thought.


I’m no longer focused on being in a place per se. As long as I’m engaged with a process and moving somewhere, then I’m happy. That is part of the problem though – when I feel like things are standing still. It might just be that the changes are slow or just not visible/noticeable to ME, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening.



Anyway, it’s Friday now. From an artist’s way point of view of doing the tasks, the week is shot to pieces. Nevermind, I’m going to finish all the leftovers from week 11 today, go on an artist date first thing Monday morning. I’m going to go down to the guitar centre and play on all the basses and bass amps. For at least an hour.


Failing all that, I just downloaded 7 CDs worth of Son House’s music. If I’m still feeling weird and shit after all that, well… no one knows the blues like he does.


I’ll be doing a proper round up of week 11 (officially last week), and then starting week 12 on Monday. Life is messy and never entirely by the book, I guess the trick is to soldier on.


Stay tuned…






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