Taking a Much-Needed Break

According to my best reckoning, I’ve been writing or working on a song every day for at least the past year. Probably more. As I mentioned in my last post, my musical endeavors coincide with my online teaching job. It’s rare for me to sit down and work exclusively on music. I may get an hour or so on Sunday morning to work on a song. So it goes with children and other adult responsibilities.

But lately, it’s been painful to write music. Not physically, but spiritually. It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try. When the day begins, I turn everything on and start working with a beat or a chord progression or bass line. Then I add stuff along the way. When I’m teaching, I flip from the teaching platform to Reason, usually to go through different patches to see what would sound good next in the song. By the end of the day, or the end of the teaching session, I feel spiritually sick. I hear what I’ve written and think, “My god, that’s garbage.” And yet I force myself to continue, listening to the track, tweaking here and there, adding effects, taking others away. By the time I turn off the computer and keyboard, I’m completely spent and left with this strange, aching feeling.

I assume this is happening because my family and I are still sheltering in place and my kids haven’t been back to school since April. I’m an introvert, and this pandemic hasn’t been kind to those of us who have no problem being alone or sheltering in place if we could do that without other people. As my wife said early in this process, “We haven’t arranged our lives in such a way that makes this easy.” We’re not used to all of us being together all the time. It’s maddening most days, and I’m spending a ton of mental and spiritual energy just dealing with my children (to say nothing of the ongoing saga of our house undergoing repairs from last year’s fire).

It makes sense why I don’t have the energy to write. I’m asking too much of myself creatively and have been since the house fire, at least in terms of music. I was incredibly prolific after we moved to our first temporary house, where we stayed for about five months. Of course, the children were in school then and my actually went to work. I had time to breathe. I wrote music before teaching, fiddling with a song during teaching, and then put it away.

So I’m putting it away for now and concentrating on playing guitar. I’ve played off and on for years, but since getting my electric guitar and little amp, I’ve been devoting more time to it. Playing guitar doesn’t feel like work (even though it hurts my wrist from time to time). It doesn’t leave me feeling empty.

I’m sure I’ll return to writing songs, but I think this is the right thing to do. I need time to recover, and I’m taking it.

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