I keep asking myself what’s changed since I felt adept at writing songs? It was never easy per se but it was common, it was what I did. I worked on Senator’s Daughter for days at a time. I wrote it on receipt paper at work, started fine tuning into into my notebook there, came home and worked on it for maybe six consecutive hours in my studio, slept, went to work and repeated the process. I struggled immensely thinking the song would never get done but within a week I had a version that was playable for others and it was hailed as a master work.
Most songs in my oeuvre probably took 20 to 30 hours of work, whether it was over a month or a year. And now I know I haven’t put it even 10 hours on new songs in the last two years.
Part of it could be that my identity is attached to other things now. I work hard, I work out, I work on myself, I foster relationships… song writing is destroyed by impatience and when there’s so much else I could and should be doing it feels like failure to sit still waiting for a song to take shape.
I also spend a lot of time trying to convince myself it matters, that writing songs is important to me. Which is odd because for my most productive times I don’t recall the feeling that it was important. A lot of it was writing little songs for my friends. I don’t know why I can’t tap into that again.
Maybe I’ve raised my own expectations too high, lost the playfulness that kept me moving.
I also notice I’m listening to less music than ever. Partly because I have less alone time than ever and partly because podcasts are awesome. When I listen to music now it’s specifically joyful music while working out. I don’t tap into the music and emotions that made me write in the past because I’m scared of being depressed again.
I spend energy guiding my emotions now, practicing mind control on myself. I stay in a focused, task oriented, attack-the-day, work out bro, mindset all day because it’s keeps the depression at bay. But it also keeps out that unfocused, dreamy, mindset that lets in new ideas.
In another vein, I’m trapped by the feeling that I have to say something, to justify all the changes and events in my life by making an amazing record. And a lot of my need for self expression is satisfied by this blog where I’m talking directly to you about this. It’s a lot more immediate than working on a song and putting it out there.
I’m an entertainer rather than an artist now. I play for strangers, for crowds that must be won over, so I stand on my strongest material. It’s not about statements coming from Alastair anymore, it’s about the guy on stage doing the audience a favour by not being self-indulgent. I play guitar now doing everything I can for them and never do anything for me.
I don’t have a flag pole to run things up anymore. Primarily it was Rob that I showed ideas to. Just an idea for a song and it would get some traction or it wouldn’t. I’ve tried to artificially re-create that with others since but it’s just not the same.
I’m trying to write songs for me now and that’s actually not what I used to do. I don’t think anyone else’s opinion matters to me anymore. I’ve constructed a safety membrane in which I can think of myself as a good person and can care for others but I don’t care, don’t expect, them to care about me.
When I think about myself as a song writer I think about all the people from the last five years that I trusted, that I put my hope in, and that let me down. I wanted to impress, to earn, to validate myself and songwriting was my only strength so that’s what I relied on. And it didn’t matter. Everyone turned against me at the drop of a hat.
The only way I could move forward was to focus on being an ethical person, helping others, working on myself and being stoic. Rather than trying to earn love I just got to point where I don’t need it, I don’t expect it. It just lets people hurt you. Freedom from wanting to be loved took away the thing that drove me to play shows, to want to be in a scene.
And so I became the other kind of person I always wanted to be. Everyone in my life now is getting the best version of me and really I want nothing from anyone anymore. In a way I’m lonelier than ever because no one can touch my happiness. My current defense mechanism is that I’m pushing love out into the world, supporting people, entertaining people, because if I’m anything less people will just leave me again. But nothing matters to me because I’m numb to the idea that any love can come in.
Desire and despair are closely related. All suffering supposedly comes from desire, freedom from wanting anything should be freedom from despair but wanting not to want anything creates a uniquely empty suffering of its own.
I’m like an exploring finally convinced El Dorado isn’t real who put down roots and built a very fine house. Rather than being upset that I couldn’t find The City Of Gold, I’m a lower key upset that it doesn’t exist. Knowing that what I was searching for didn’t exist didn’t cure the urge that sent me searching in the first place. Some people romanticize perpetual, delusional search but I wasn’t searching for the sake of searching, I was searching because there was something I wanted to find.