I would suspect that most all of us have come to some rather hard but potentially healthy realizations during our pandemic-imposed break. A general conditioning toward productivity, busyness, and results; the absence of stillness in my regular day-to-day — these are now more accurately seen as deficiencies, not strengths. Given a little bit of space and time, and frankly overwhelming stress, I’ve come to better understand the value of real and complete rest, physical and mental, while also noting the seam of guilt that lies just beneath it and from which those needling, habitual thoughts arise – “I should be doing something right now,” “I need to do _____”
I’ve wondered, too, how my music figures into this new rest, considering that songwriting, gigs, recording, promotion, etc. have always absorbed so much of my mental bandwidth. My body would be in one place, but my head was still on some task I needed to attend to, some idea I was eager to get down. This isn’t bad, per se. It’s good to have interests, but there just needed to be an offswitch. The pandemic — and other personal challenges that pre-dated COVID — found my offswitch and hit it for me.
Because for the last several months, I haven’t quite felt like playing my guitar or writing or doing much of anything in the way of music creation. That spirit has been muted in light of the world coming to a full stop, markets tanking, people out of work in unprecedented numbers, and my country eating its own tail. But instead of forcing creativity – wringing life out of my instruments, really trying to continue playing and making amid the tumult — I simply let it be, knowing that it would return in due time. I let my guitar gather some dust all summer, put away my song ideas, and pared life back to its essentials: health, my family’s health, day job. We took long walks, went to parks, witnessed so many hazy summer evenings descend, slow and pink, behind the Finger Lakes. I took a god damn rest, and it was magic.
Only recently has that creative energy begun to bubble up again, like I figured it might, and to my delight, there’s a genuine lightness to playing my guitar and recording songs. Not having any gigs certainly relieves some of the usual stress, as does the subsequent peripheral stuff related to gigs, like promoting. There is none of the usual external pressures to do anything other than to play music simply for the enjoyment of playing music. There are no shows to find, no shows to play, no posters to make, no pressing need to regularly post #content or to convince anyone that I’m a somebody, god dammit. Not for me, anyway. Relieved of all of that, I’m just playing and tinkering. This shift in mindset is subtle, the tiniest nudge toward center, but it’s given me fresh perspective on why I write songs, why I write posts like this, why I do any of it: it’s because I love making something out of nothing; and because it taps into some inner space that is fundamentally human. Some time away, with the creative energies flicked off, allowed me to appreciate it all just a little bit more, to be still and ready once that glow twitched alive again.
Just this week, I played my first show in months — a livestream gig I headlined, thanks to a song I wrote that took the grand prize in the Rockwell Museum’s “Tiny Gallery” contest.
Have a look and listen, and best of luck to you on attaining some rest and venturing again into your own creative endeavors.
Too Many Fires (47:08)
Last Place (51:49)
Picattiny Arsenal (56:08)
I Think We’ll Be Okay (1:00:38)
Old Times (1:05:01)
Win Win (1:10:29)
Like I Should (1:22:26)
Cat Person (1:25:19)
Sweetness (kinda) (1:28:51)