Thursday, June 5, 2014

Losing My Muse: There and Back Again

For the past year or so, I haven’t known what to say to people who asked me what was going on with my music. I’d usually say something like, “I’m busy doing other things,” or, “I’m taking a break,” all the while gritting my teeth to keep from saying that I was angry my songwriting had left me and I didn’t know if I would ever consider myself an artist again.

You see, I’ve been performing since I was four. Through everything, music had been the most stable chunk of my identity. But somewhere in my teenage years, making music became wrapped up in this grand idea of being Understood. I felt a lot of feelings that I didn’t know how to incorporate into my everyday life, and so I would pour them into my songwriting, creating music that was surprisingly dark and rage-filled for a quiet, mild-mannered girl, thinking that once I wrote the right song everyone around me would Get It.  

I self-produced an album, played a ton of shows, and released an EP. I was really proud of what I’d accomplished. But when it came to being Understood, I’d gotten nowhere. Last spring, as I was working on a second music video from my EP, I suddenly found myself out of motivation. I simply didn’t know why I was making music anymore.

Hurt at being so resented, my muse packed up and left. I stopped humming to myself and thinking of lyrics while I rode my bike. This sudden absence of musical creativity was terrifying — if I wasn’t a songwriter, then who was I? I spent many days feeling lost as I tried to figure that out. But I made a bunch of new friends who didn’t know that part of my identity. I wrote a (terrible) NaNoWriMo novel. I started the long climb up the mountain to be assertive and expressive in my everyday life. I got really excited about my career in the music industry. And I started to see that I was a complete person even if I didn't happen to be a person who wrote songs.

Just as I was starting to feel okay in this new life without music, music started to come back to me— the little whispers of lyric ideas, the melodies caught in my ears. It startled me at first, like an old roommate who still had the keys to let herself in. But I tried to put away my judgments and just let it come. Last month, I wrote my first new song in a year. 

And so now I’m playing my first show in nine months in Brooklyn on Saturday (shameless plug: it's at 7:30pm at Friends and Lovers!). But I have a completely different perspective on music than I did last spring. 

The truth is that music doesn’t owe me anything. Music isn’t going to vindicate me or solve my personal problems. Music can’t make me Understood by the world. But music can be my friend during the wordless moments, a validation of complicated feelings, a way for me to aurally hug other people and tell them they’re not alone. 

However much or little music decides to be in my life, I will accept it with an open heart full of gratitude, enjoying every small moment my fingertips graze the piano keys. 

P.S. I was inspired to write this by this article on Rookie about a writer with writer's block trying to be a normal human. Maybe you'll enjoy it too.