…Better yet, what is the purpose of art?
In the past, my creative pursuits were based on a need for catharsis. I wrote songs in order to process and heal, primarily in regards to unrequited love.
I reached a point in my life at 31 years of age where that was no longer necessary. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to cope with the absence of a broken or angered heart. I explored other topics in my songwriting, but I mostly felt discouraged at the results. A seed had been planted that if I were to make art, it would need to say something. Something of substance. And one my deepest fears is that I might not have anything important to say through music. I thought myself and my artistic expression simple and unsophisticated.
It wasn’t all bleak- this period in my life allowed me to work on other areas I’d neglected over the years – completing higher education, focusing on my mental health, and starting a family. And in spite of myself, it was the most emotional stability I’d ever experienced. Internally, I was a tumultuous mess. But it was all part of my growth.
Parenthood knocked me off my feet. So unexpectedly. We had planned my pregnancy and our venture into this new phase of our lives, but we were so green and so naïve and, HOLY SHIT no one tells you how difficult it REALLY is going to be. You may have an abstract idea that, sure, parenthood is gonna be rough. But there’s just no way of preparing for the reality of it. That shit is merciless.
Once I’d settled into my new roll as a mother, I had all but forgotten my previous life. I didn’t touch my guitar for years. I no longer identified with that side of myself because 1) I genuinely thought I was terrible at it, and 2) I was older and could not fathom playing guitar and singing at a nightclub at this point in my life.
I picked up my guitar one day. I was terrified at the realization that I had forgotten how to play most of my old songs. What had I done? I’d lost my core self. All my life I’d wanted to sing and make music. Guitar facilitated that. At the tender age of 9 I marveled at the structure of lyrics on pop albums. How had I lost sight of that constant companion?
I listened to my old recordings. I no longer harshly criticized my younger self. It was like hearing myself for the first time. I started playing guitar again, and within a few weeks, my muscle memory came shining through and I was able to play my old songs again.
And then, almost like magic, I was songwriting again.
So here I am, just over a year later, culling through old material and creating new music as well, hoping to soon share them with whoever wants to listen.
And I’ve almost come full circle – asking myself, do I have anything important to say? I suppose it depends on who determines what is “important” – the artist? The consumer? Society as a whole?
The collection of songs I’m currently working on deal with my own mental health. I would say that is an incredibly important conversation to have – anything that can mitigate the stigma of mental illness is a worthy pursuit. However, given our current political and social climate, maybe focusing on myself is not the direction I want to go for now. I have very strong opinions of dissent with our current administration. (Just look at my Twitter feed!) But I also feel that I don’t have any poetic finesse to tackle the severity of these issues. Not that I can’t do it, I just don’t know where or how my voice fits in that realm. And once I’ve completed this project of songs about my personal growth and mental health, what comes next? Another indefinite hiatus? What is so important that I should weigh in with a song? In what ways will I challenge the listener? More importantly, in what ways will I challenge myself?
And maybe that’s the whole point of artistic expression. It can be a proclamation, or provocation, or just an exploration.