I’ve been noticing lately that my general mood on a day-to-day basis is almost directly proportional to how much I involve myself with music. I have been doing almost nothing music-related in the past week.5 and it’s kinda been bringing me down.
Why don’t I just never stop doing it then, you ask? Well unfortunately there seem to be other things in life that require a lot of attention before they go away and stop distracting me. That, and motivation is a rare commodity for me. I might be so inclined to say that both of those reasons go hand-in-hand as well. In fact, I might as well claim that ALL of it is intertwined, just like everything else that exists. Which is everything.
The best analogy I’ve ever been able to use to adequately describe life is that it’s like a huge cardboard puzzle of an unknown shape, with an unknown quantity of pieces, and no box to reference to. Just like life, the best strategy for starting your puzzle is to get a feasible structure to work with, a.k.a.: the edge pieces. The edge pieces are like the basic set of moral standards, the facts of reality which we eventually come to believe in, and the general speculations we have to make about the things we don’t fully understand.
Of course, with an unknown amount of pieces to work with, and a seemingly infinite pile of them to sift through, this isn’t always easy. Sometimes you find several different edge pieces that don’t connect in a way you understand until you find other ones that bring them all together. And even if you do end up putting together a substantial line of these pieces, you don’t always know what side of the finished puzzle they go on. The opinions you develop and the morals you stand by aren’t always immediately obvious as to where they belong in the long-run. But at least you’re starting to make sense of it, right?
As your core values start making more and more sense, you begin to realize how they all connect and rely on each other to maintain their integrity. Realizing this is a necessity for completing the rest of the puzzle. Along the way you may occasionally see a few of the inside pieces that match up and make a bit of sense, maybe putting the “big picture” into a clearer perspective, but if you let your focus drift onto making more of this one little chunk out of who knows how many other chunks there are without having an “edge” to relate it to, it’s easy to get lost and frustrated, sometimes to the point of taking a break, or even giving up completely.
What you REALLY should be looking for on this puzzling journey of living, however, are the corner pieces. The corner pieces give you a better insight on the size and shape of things. They bring the edge pieces you’ve assembled from different sides together. And you know how satisfying that is when you’re working on a puzzle. The gratification you get out of having a sturdy understanding of yourself is unparalleled. To be able to know yourself, and your place in the world is extremely important in figuring everything else out.
The unfortunate part of all this, though, is that we will never figure “everything else” out. A problem with our reality is that we’re limited by time. A puzzle of an indeterminate size and shape will never be completed as long as there is a restriction on its availability to be worked on. It’s too complex to finish in the life-span we get, but there is no reason not to continue trying. The best part of life is that it’s challenging. Without challenge there is no purpose. For example, if you’re the type of person who enjoys putting together puzzles (and I’m talking literally, here) are you really going to be satisfied with one made of only four pieces? There’s no point because you can easily put it together without even touching it. I believe the best way to lead a fulfilling life is to overcome challenges, and to challenge yourself otherwise. Test your limits and try new things. Set goals and try your best to reach them. For me, the answer to that resounding question: ‘What is the meaning of life?’ is completely obvious. The answer is: to live it.
Hopefully my little puzzle analogy tangent was of some use to you, whoever you are. My goal for the two days I have off work are to put together some edge pieces and do some creatively stimulating activities. Hopefully I’ll have something interesting to show you as a result of this.
- [B] •_•
This post is brought to you in part by: the letter Q, the number 0, and 69-watt bulbs.
I’ve been feeling very creative lately. Not only creative, but confident in my creativity. Confidence has never been something that comes easily to me, so I’m quite grateful that I’m in this mood.
A struggle I’ve run into on my excursion through music-making is not knowing whether or not anything I do is “good”. I’m not saying that no one else goes through this; in fact, I believe that no one doesn’t, but it’s a very frustrating thing to not know if you’re living up to your own standards. Especially when your personal standards are extremely high. Having an objective view on the work you create is extremely difficult, but not impossible.
Recently I’ve been trying to look at the songs I’ve created in a new light so that I might feed my confidence level a bit. The more confidence I have, the more motivation I get to continue working, and the more I continue working, the better I get, and the cycle continues…
When I listen to the music I’ve made, I can’t help but compare it to the electronic artists I admire the most like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Amon Tobin, Autechre, Múm, etc. Of course comparing yourself to some of the best is going to result in unsatisfactory opinions about your own work. So I’ve been trying something new. I’ve been comparing myself to myself. I am looking at how far I’ve come, and by what means I’ve come as far as I have. Not only have I realized that I AM improving, but it opened up a new perspective on what it means to be able to create “good” music.
I can’t say for certain, but I am just inferring that all the artists I listed above and most other professional musicians have come from years of dedication to learning about music and all the intricacies of melodies and notes and rhythms and all that great stuff. I’ve only been getting serious about music in the past two or three years. I have almost no technical knowledge of music, no real experience, no equipment, no educational training or substantial feedback, and yet I am somehow able to do what I do. It’s not as fantastic as I would like it to be (yet) but I can’t deny that I am doing well.
I don’t consider myself cocky about my music whatsoever. For someone who sets nearly impossible standards for themselves, cockiness is not really an option. I know that the people I’ve shown my music to like it, and most people are surprised that it came from me; but I don’t assume that because my friends and family enjoy it that EVERYONE will. I acknowledge my current skills as a musician with the understanding that I have a long way to go. Being able to enjoy what I create for what it is is extremely satisfying. I know that I’m still learning, and probably always will be, but in the meantime, what’s the point of beating yourself up for not being perfect? Perfection is an impossible goal, but it’s a goal nonetheless.
- [B] •_•
This post is brought to you in part by: the letter Z, the number 808, and cats with walnut hats.
The hardest part about keeping a blog for me is not knowing how to start it. Actually, this problem seems to echo throughout many areas of my life. Doing things is one thing, but starting them is something else. I often feel like a huge boulder at the top of an infinitely tall (and very steep) hill: chalk full of potential energy just waiting to be turned into kinetic energy. Fortunately, one thing in particular I have over boulders is free will. While I do occasionally need a push from an external force to get me going, I sometimes find it in me to push myself, and once I get going, the momentum almost always takes control. It’s that initial push that we often need to start rolling down the hill of success that is so rare.
This blog is going to be the outlet for me on my trek into the life of a musician. I’ll be talking about things I learn along the way, things I do and want to do, and tangible evidence of my quest in the form of audible creation.
Besides being one of those “pushes” we need to get ourselves going, this blog will hopefully also be a place where I can get substantial feedback on my music. Outside perspective is necessary for me to continue the pursuit of the unattainable goal of perfection, so please be honest and as thorough as possible with your feedback for all our sakes.
- [B] •_•
This post is brought to you in part by: the letter S, the number 3, and caffeine.
Humility Vs. Pride
I once read a book called “An Open Heart” by the Dalai Lama. While I have never been so positively affected by a single book at the time (or a single anything, for that matter) I recently realized that I may not have taken the advice so expertly explained with a small enough grain of salt. Since I have never really educated myself on the intricacies of Buddhist practices and ideals, my only “knowledge” of the subject was the aforementioned book and random quotes people post in their Facebook profiles. From reading “An Open Heart” I mistakenly went away with the notion that pride in oneself is BAD. No matter what.
I’m going to crack open an attic-window into my mind-factory for whomever might be reading this by admitting that I have never had the advantage of having confidence on my side. Anyone who knows me personally might completely disagree based on how I act on a day-to-day basis, but a lot of that is a finely crafted suit of emotionally protective body armor. Self-esteem has never been a strong point for me, unfortunately. My point here is that, once I read and misunderstood that being proud of yourself is not okay, it just validated my already waining self-confidence. It caused me to think, “hey I’m already never satisfied with any accomplishment I make so I guess it’s a good thing wooohooo!! I must continue this trend and make sure that I set impossibly high standards for myself and everything I do!” As counter-intuitive (and just plain idiotic) as that might sound, it’s how I felt for a while.
If you do something worth acknowledging as a success, then acknowledge it as a success! If you are an extremely ambitious person like I am, you have probably set high standards for yourself. I’m not saying high standards are bad, I’m saying that beating yourself up for not reaching them is bad. I’m saying that impatience with your progress in whatever endeavors you’ve set up for your life is bad. Take a good look at where you were, where you are now, and where you want to be and assess your ability to positively change your life, then do it.
This entire post is inspired by my newly acquired confidence in my talents as a musician, a title I’ve only recently been able to give myself. Since I realized that music is what I want to do forever, it’s been hard to acknowledge my current skills. I’ve been feeling like I’m no good because I’m not perfect.
But when I think about the fact that I have no real experience, educational training or technical knowledge of music and have been learning how to do what I can do almost entirely from my natural abilities in the past two years, it makes me feel accomplished. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I’m truly satisfied with where I am, but isn’t that the point of ambition? In the meantime I think we all sometimes just need to take a step back and readjust our self-perception to a more realistic setting. Perfection isn’t an attainable goal, but it’s still a goal.
Brought to you in part by the letter S, the number 3, and caffeine.