Sometimes it all comes out. Gushing honesty, flowing so fast that the editor has no time to interrupt. I'm lucky to have it flow fairly often. When It doesn't I'll just turn away for a while, maybe start something else, and come back to it later.
Last night I sat by myself, opened up my voice memos and played an idea from earlier this month. Really, it was just a chord progression and a line. But I returned with a completely different perspective and a freshness that allowed me to see something new. Almost immediately, ideas flew to me and glued themselves to the song. Moments later, an old verse I wrote in October reemerged and fit right in.
I played the song a few times with a new sense of discovery. Very often, writing a song feels just like listening. Honestly, it's like I'm learning the tune, not writing it. And even though this particular song was pretty damn dark, I had a big smile on my face because I knew I was just given something special.
There are times, though, when it won't come out. It's blocked. It's strange. I can see it, I can hear it, I can read it, but for some reason "It" just isn't ready to emerge.
I've tried forcing ideas before and it can work. I actually recommend this to nascent songwriters as a way to overcome their insecurity. If you don't make anything, you really don't give yourself a chance to improve. Eventually though, forcing creativity is hardly the best condition under which content should emerge. That being said, I believe it's better to force it out than to not do it at all.
I'm working on a piece about the new ridesharing regulations in Austin, and I'm stuck. I've got a good amount written, but I'm doubting every key I strike as I string this together. I know what I want to say, but when I sit down to write it won't come out. I'm uninspired. It's drudgery and it shouldn't be.
I've spoken with at least two people about the piece, and in each of those conversations I was bursting with ideas and confidence. It's a good story, it just doesn't want to come out yet.
Part of me wonders if sharing "undercooked" ideas spoils the final presentation. I've stopped sharing music with friends and family before I've finished it. I try not to share all of my plans with the world, at least until I've made some sort of move in that direction. Otherwise I'm "all hat and no cattle."
My friend Steve told me about a study that found that sharing your plans, or your "hopes and dreams," with others reduces your motivation to actualize those goals. Essentially, your brain is tricked into thinking that you're putting effort in just by talking about it.
I think that's part of it.
I suspect that some blockages are due to expecting one thing and receiving another. When I'm open and happy to accept what comes to me, it is always so wonderful. I'll call it "Constant Miracle Consciousness." TM
However, when I'm waiting for something specific to show up and I get something else, I'm disappointed. I feel blocked because I didn't get what I wanted. And as I'm lamenting my blockage, I don't value what is in front of me.
I'm imagining a man in the early 1900s, waiting for his unrequited love at a snowy train station. Of course the scene is in black and white... He sits and waits for hours for her to show up. She never does, but in his waiting he meets a woman sitting next to him. Unaware that she's the real soulmate, he continues to sit and wait, missing everything that's actually there.
I can think of so many situations in which I was upset that I didn't get what I wanted, not knowing that what I really wanted was happiness. And that was always there.
We were taught to go get what we want, but are we really happy when we get it? Maybe we just want to get our way, and sometime we do. Usually we don't. It's as if we've set ourselves up for endless disappointment; looking for one outcome in a world of infinite possibilities.
I'm sort of uncovering this idea as I write you, so bare with me. I think this is what happened to me in New York. I think this is what happened last night when I wandered throughout Austin without a plan, all alone, finding love at every turn.
I could have kept trudging through my article about Lyft, here at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on 38th 1/2 St on this incredibly gorgeous day. But I didn't, and now I'm happy.
If it's not there, let it go. It's as if our blockages are actually messages, informing us of the huge gifts that await if only we alter our perspective.
Of course this is all an experiment, and I don't know the outcome as of yet. I'm attempting to learn what works and what doesn't. I'm only looking because I've tried what doesn't work for so long. I've felt blocked for years. I don't feel blocked anymore, at least not as much. I'm happier because I'm looking at what's here instead of waiting for what's not.