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Did you see that meme about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague?
How about Isaac Newton – did you see the article about how he developed differential and integral calculus (among other things) whilst in quarantine?
But how about you?▼ Article continues below ▼
Did you lose weight, get ripped, find enlightenment, finish a double album, clean out your closet, fix all your guitars, launch a million-dollar podcast, learn Spanish, and write your memoir? If so, I respect the hell out of you. I’ve seen the IG posts, heard the quarantine album drops, and I gotta tell you, it made me feel like a loser.
Here I had (have) all this time and what do I have to show for it? Bupkis. Sure, I started a lot of writing projects, produced a few songs, did a few small releases, and fixed a few things. But I just feel like I have not met the imaginary and unrealistic expectations I have set for myself during this first part of the pandemic.
There are plenty of good reasons for my lack of finishing and maybe you have felt some of this too. First, it’s a pandemic, that brings with it worry, stress, and unfortunately for so many of us, tragic loss. You worry about your family, friends, bandmates, neighbors, even your city and country. Add to that democracy, an election, misinformation, hope and judgment, racial justice protests, loss of income, canceled tours, business ventures closing, and on and on.
As a songwriter, I cannot believe with all of this material in life to pull from why in the hell I haven’t written and produced 100s of songs in a few months? I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I think part of it is I’ve just had trouble concentrating on creating, especially reflecting the world around me. After a day of news, I just want to retreat into a stupid TV show binge.
Here’s the good news. You still have time. You haven’t wasted anything. This damn pandemic is still going to be with us for a while, especially if you’re not the first in line to get vaccines (if and when they come). You’ve had to do what you’ve had to do to survive. It’s okay, you’re doing just fine.
So, relax, forgive yourself, and reset. We’re entering another phase of this thing during the Winter, and no matter where you live there will be more disruptions. By now you are probably in a rhythm, you know where to order stuff from, you know that tour is definitely off, you know which places you can play or not, you have your masks at the ready, you have a shopping schedule, etc. We’ve all settled in a bit. Now’s the time to go ahead and give yourself permission to do the work you want to. It’s time to let all of the guilt go and let yourself be creative again.
I know this is a “rah-rah” piece, but I think it’s needed – I know I needed to hear it. I also know I am not alone. I know you want to really dive into your writing, unleash your voice, get some tracks recorded and released, get better at your instrument and feel like a creative force again. Good, that’s what I want too. Remember, music is important. This is not about your career or stream counts. It’s about music for the sake of music. Music is needed, your music is needed – not only for your fans, but for your soul. As a music maker, you are unique, not everyone can do it, seriously, it’s a rare thing and we should recognize that responsibility.
It’s just as important as fixing societal ills or solving a pandemic. Otherwise, what will there be to celebrate?
Write one song this week. That’s it. Start small. Bang out a D-G-A tune. Write about the world you want to see. Then finish a single recording – not an album, just one track. Baby steps. Learn one cover, pick a surprising song you absolutely love and haven’t played. Really learn it like you’re going to play it live next year. Enjoy the process. Start with these little tasks and you will start feeling momentum. You’ll start breaking your shell, unleashing your creative power.
We’re going to get through this. Stop beating yourself up, know you are not alone. You’re going to start making these small changes and realize how lucky we all are to be able to create and play music, just for the love of it.
You’re doing just fine.
–Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.