Posts tagged big picture
A Risky Life

I’ve had many conversations with creative friends regarding the life we have chosen to live, a life that seems unnatural compared to what is widely accepted as “normal” and which provides no shortage of discomfort, uncertainty and risk. The fact is that many people who have the artistic itch willingly and knowingly enter into a life path that causes a great deal of stress. Stress from not knowing when your next paycheck will be. Stress from sickness and injury when you have poor insurance coverage, or none at all. Stress from not feeling capable of leading the life modern society has bred most of us to believe we are supposed to live, or from not even wanting to live that life in the first place and possibly feeling slightly alienated or even ostracized from a social structure that finds that to be odd.

These are not anxieties exclusive to the creative community; they’re shared by many, many people devoted to any number of disciplines around the world. And, as I firmly believe, we are all creative in one way or another. But while I know this applies to many different types, I’m thinking of a very specific kind of person as I write this (because they’re the ones I talk to about these things on a regular basis).

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Success is Bullshit

That’s right, I said it. Success, as most of us define it, is total BS. Think about it: it’s a completely relative, absolutely arbitrary measure we create in our own minds to judge ourselves against. And when you set that bar high, you end up spending a good part of your life, or even your entire life, knocking your self-worth down a peg when you’re not reaching your own subjective and lofty standards. It actually doesn’t make any sense and is directly related to the innate problems of perfectionism that seem productive but are actually self-destructive. And that’s why it’s bullshit.

Look, it’s great to be ambitious. I am. But it’s so easy in our culture of things and money and “being cool” to have your ambitions misplaced. You set a goal to be the best at something, when realistically you’ll never be the best. You want to revolutionize without realizing that many of the greatest innovations weren’t made by people who specifically sat down intending to innovate. You want to record a classic album only to realize that doesn’t actually solve any of the problems of the world. You want to make a lot of money, then find that financial success doesn’t fill the voids in your life.

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Making Art for Art's Sake or: How I Learned to Give Up the Agenda

When my band broke up last year, I found myself in an uncomfortable but interesting place. I’d been in bands for almost my entire life starting shortly after I first picked up the guitar (six months after, to be exact). From that time in 1996 through 2011, the longest stretch of time when I wasn’t in at least one band was no longer than a few months. It’s always been something that felt right to me, that feeling of being an important part of a small, tight-knit group of like-minded musicians creating new and exciting things. But here I was after a six and a half year run with Shaimus: bandless, lost and exhausted.

In so many ways it was like getting out of a six year relationship; just the thought of starting a new band was enough to make me feel worn out and frustrated. Along with this (and many other feelings) came a sense of melancholy freedom. I had been obligated to go to rehearsals or meetings on Monday nights, Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings for years. I couldn’t take a trip out of town without consulting five other people. It was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make and had no regrets about, but now I suddenly had a huge chunk of my personal life restored. Yet I was back to the beginning: we had not quite made it to the level in our career that would have opened doors that could ease the transition into my next musical project. It was either join a band that was already at that level or start from scratch again.

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We Are All Artists

Usually when I talk to people about my pursuit of a career in music, I stress that I’ve never really felt as though I was pursuing a dream so much as fulfilling a basic need. Music is something that’s always been there and, much like eating and sleeping, will always be around just begging for my attention every day. I hesitate to use terms as dramatic as “life force” when describing it, but despite the lameness, it is pretty accurate when describing creative and artistic pursuits in my life. I thrive on creating and otherwise being involved in artistic endeavors, whether it be music, drawing or writing. Even humor is a creative aspect of my personality that is stubbornly embedded into my being. Art isn’t something that I do, it’s something that I am–it happens naturally and necessarily.

Most artistic types will stress that they simply have a need to express themselves. Actually, just about everybody seems to need a venue for self-expression, artistic or otherwise. Although I essentially agreed with the self-expression goal behind art, for quite a long time I wondered why something like that would be so urgent. I don’t feel like I have a whole lot of important stuff to say, so why feel the need to express myself?

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