Let me be clear: I respect art and artists. But me and many of my friends freeze up when we set out to make “art.” The very word triggers all kinds of threatening associations and judgments: standards of quality based on other people’s taste, rules, questions of fashionableness and style. In other words, the word “art” can send us to the demonic forgery of Doubt, deep in the harrowing mountain fortress of Not Enoughness, where our shackles are made.
For this reason, I’m a strong proponent of making cool stuff, not art, as a route to creative awakening.
Wherein My Snob Brain Makes Me Miserable
My Snob Brain is the part of me that convincingly reasons that nothing is worth doing unless it is guaranteed to rocket me into the ranks of the luminaries.
For a long time I considered myself a blocked poet– I could write poetry (indeed, I wrote two books of the stuff this past year), but only in bursts, not every day. And I never felt really nurtured and only rarely deeply delighted by what I wrote, even when it garnered me recognition and prizes.
Whenever I would sit down to write poetry I’d be working to create something which would be legible to others as insightful, beautiful, valuable. This led to me feeling frustrated, resentful, crazy.
One day I realized that while there are poems I love very much, and even some I have memorized, my most favorite lines of wonderful words actually aren’t from poems at all– they’re song lyrics.
The snob in me can tell you that the lyrics to the songs I most love are really not dazzling poetic masterpieces. A lot of them are overwrought and corny– for example, please check the lyrics of my favorite ballad ever, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and see if they don’t strike you as rather turgidly purple.
But the thing is, I love them. They’ve given me a lot more pleasure over the years than “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
Singin’ a Song
I’ve discovered recently that it gives me great joy to make up a tune while I’m walking down the street (I walk a lot— about 4 miles a day) and to put words to it that don’t particularly make much sense. I sing these songs into the voice recorder on my phone so I can save them for later development and enjoyment. My latest is called “The Nothing Eats The Nothing” and the words go something like this:
The tangle in the ivy / The striping in the bark / The nothing eats the nothing eats the now
The rubies at the dawning / The walking in the park / The nothing eats the nothing eats the now
The last time that I saw you / The striving in the dark / The nothing eats the nothing eats the now
I can promise you that Poetry magazine would not print “The Nothing Eats The Nothing,” and I can also tell you that making it up and singing it makes me very happy.
It makes sense to me that I derive great pleasure from making up songs– an activity that doesn’t qualify as “art” in my Snob Brain — because many self-taught visionaries who make cool stuff via attention to their own intuitive voices tend not to consider what they make “art.”
The tough thing about using my energy to make up neat songs, though, is that it takes time and energy away from my old ego project of getting prestige through poetry, i.e., winning the Nobel Prize in Literature by whatever means necessary.
You may not share my particular prestige hang up, but you still might be declining to follow your playful impulses to make cool stuff because whatever those impulses are and whatever it is they want to do doesn’t fit in with your ego’s rational plan for life success.
Why My Snob Brain Hates Singin’ a Song
Songwriting very much does not fit into my ego’s rational plan for life success. Here’s why:
1) I can’t play an instrument, unless you count the tambourine– and even that’s sorta iffy.
2) I can’t read or write music.
3) My voice is okay but quite untrained.
4) So many people out there have been music-making since they were 5 and are better than me in all respects.
Nonetheless, I have this extra-rational impulse to spend time making up songs. Despite all the strikes against me, I trust that if I follow this impulse and allow it to bring things forward into manifestation then something– though goodness knows what– will come out of it. Indeed, I already notice myself feeling more and more like a visionary all the time.
What cool stuff could you make today?
Image Credit: Photo “heart-on-a-stick” by dev null, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.