The Artist’s Way: Week 11

This was officially supposed to be Monday 17th – Sunday 23rd, but due to the way things have panned out has included several days from the past week and I’m doing the write up now.

Days I did my morning pages: 5/7 then 4/7

Some days I purposefully didn’t do them because I thought they might do more damage than good given my state of mind. Perhaps on these days I would’ve benefited the most from them. Perhaps not.

I did a LOT of song pages the first half of my 2-week-long ‘week 11’. They seem to have covered more ground, but especially towards the end of the week they felt like they were soulless in a way and counter-productive towards the things I think matter in a songs. I haven’t finished any of the songs I’ve been working on which frustrates me.

Artist Date:

I don’t think I’ve done anything that could really count as an artist date over the past two weeks. I’ve played two gigs, put in time doing piano practice, been shopping for clothes and vinyl etc in a few charity shops. That was one of my dates, but to me should be something I do on a weekly/bi-weekly basis anyway.

This brings me on to the crux of the problem and the reason for me running so spectacularly out of steam during the past week. I’ve been working really hard. Long hours, much blood and sweat, determination and grit. The problem is that I’m not rewarding myself for it, and am taking the fun out of it the way I have been going about it.

Several problems preside:

a) Lack of artist dates – my inner child feels neglected and doesn’t want to play. It also illustrates a kind of cowardice and neglect on my part because facing up to the necessity for fun and seemingly unproductive recreation is the only way the creative side can survive and flourish, let alone maintain any degree of output.

b) Having urges to experiment or side track into certain realms of creativity, but my organised mind telling myself; ‘Hold on, wait. We’ll get to that bit later once this other stuff is finished first’. The thing is, it never works like that, and besides the work is never truly finished.

If I’m writing a bunch of songs tied together in a certain way, in a certain style, around certain themes, then it is vitally important that I indulge myself and allow myself to go off and experiment with creating other types of sounds, experimenting with just making musical loops for the hell of it, playing with guitar pedals I know I’m not going to use, trying to create rhythms in strange time signatures because this is the kind of balance I need. I already know this about myself from all this time spent playing, writing, creating, and yet I still try and override it or ignore it – and only to my own detriment I might add. When will I learn?

Hopefully now.

c) It is this same side of my brain and pattern of thought that has let my fun muscle degenerate to a degree. The other issue here is that all the ideas I have had regarding fun things to do initially were all centred around musical tasks and were in essence adjuncts to my main work. As fun as many of these are, I need more things that are purely fun and don’t have to tie in with some sort of function. More activities and pursuits that aren’t required to fit into my musical goals, or my health regimen etc.

I’ve made a long list of future artist dates, fun and nurturing and posted it up on the wall. Some of these things are to be ticked off and some are to be done repeatedly every-so-often.

In order to emphasise the point I opened the dictionary and copied out the full definition of the word ‘fun’ and posted it on the wall in front of my desk where all my other quotes and bits of wisdom go.

Fun

Noun:

1 Light-hearted pleasure or amusement

2 Source of this

3 Playfulness or good humour

Adjective: enjoyable.

From Wiki:

Fun is the enjoyment of pleasure and, according to Johan Huizinga, “an absolutely primary category of life, familiar to everybody at a glance right down to the animal level.” Fun may be encountered in many human activities during work, social functions, recreation and play, and even seemingly mundane activities of daily living. The distinction between enjoyment and fun is difficult to articulate but real,fun being a more spontaneous, playful, or active event. The perception of time is shortened when one is “having fun”.

This isn’t to give the impression that I’m a grouch – I find my art for the most part more enjoyable and enriching than anything else I’ve found otherwise I wouldn’t do it. The problem is when it becomes very hard work and I don’t give myself little rewards just for their own sake. I get burned out, and maintaining my art, nurturing the flame is part of this responsibility I’ve agreed to take on.

The crazy thing is how simple, small and easy it is to do this and yet I’ve neglected it, as I’m sure many others have too.

I never would’ve identified myself as having any even vaguely workaholic traits before, and I suppose constantly worrying if you’re being lazy is itself a workaholic trait, unless you are just being lazy. I have just never found a way of being consistently productive at this level of intensity before, but if I do my duty and guarantee myself enough fun, there’s no reason it can’t last.

I have to cut myself some slack here too. Apart from burning myself out by not doing artist dates, it has been a very busy month with lots of sporadic changes in my job-working hours, a bunch of festivals that have prohibited much or anything in the form of output and work, and some other family stuff like my grandfather passing away. So there has not been as much time to get all the tasks done.

Plus, I’ve been out a fair bit seeing friends, gigs, indulging in this strange thing they call ‘fun’, albeit not by myself as prescribed.

I feel like I might have lost a bit of momentum in giving myself the slack of an extra week to cut back and clean everything up, but I felt that moving onto the next week without doing the dishes from this one would’ve been leading me to a worse calamity.

Week 12 starts tomorrow. I’ll see you at the finish line folks.

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