Near the end, there was a final freak out, or rather a series of freak outs, moments of overwhelming anxiety and uncertainty, fueled by countless questions: Was the record good enough? Were the guitars on time? Did they feel too stiff, too artificial? Did the tones come out right? Did we mess up, "A Way Out of Town," by trying to make it a slightly better at the end of the process? Did the vocals give emotions life, making them seem real, genuine and personal? Did the city sounds fit with the record? Did we put enough effort into creating and maintain the album's flow? Would the concept be understood by others? The questions cluttered my mind all night, every night, for nearly three weeks. My head was spinning, diligently working overtime, trying to find ways to fix what we could with the time we had left. Yet, nothing felt right.
Those weeks we're difficult and dangerous, gone in an instant, but seemingly endless.
As an end nears, danger lurks: There is a very realistic possibility that the work, the art, may be destroyed by last minute tinkering, smothering the creation by clinging to personal insecurities, letting the wounds win, and, in the worst case scenario, allowing an emotional outburst to hide the project, or trash it.
Songwriting is a drip-by-drip process filled with bloodletting, sweat and tears, daily battles, reaching deep to give when it feels like the odds of finishing are bleak, and fighting to cover seemingly insignificant, small distances until it's complete, but for all of the challenges, it's a joyous experience, an exhausting-excitement, an act of love. Plus, there's progress. Progress cures pain, acting as a preventative measure against getting stuck, protection from harm -- becoming motionless, thoughtless, helpless.
But completing up an album, that's final. There are no more drafts, no more revisions, no more tomorrows. Releasing a record, putting any form of art into the world, means there's nothing more to consider, to change, or to do -- at least as it pertains to that specific work, that stage, that sound, that space. It all about opportunity, making the open-closed, in order to make the closed-open, giving the work to the world through the generosity of sharing, true kindness.
In those critical moments, it's easy to become unstable, unhinged, or oversensitive. Sensitivity and perception -- strengths that made the great art possible -- can become weaknesses near the end, amplified in intensity, able to shake confidence. Unresolved details, missed opportunities, and almosts can turn to annoyance, annoyance to pain, and pain to disdain. But really, beneath the layers, it's fear.
I was scared of what others would think, and with the errors I perceived, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to hide. If we had to release it, and we did, I wanted to disappear for a few weeks, not check to see if the art was actually alive, not check to see if another living, breathing person listened to it.
Of course, there's a paradox: we make art to connect, to make meaning, to share, to give, and to create change, but within all of those hopes, those musts, are responsibilities -- things we take seriously, things we deeply care about, fragments of imagination, pieces of the soul. Once released, they are on display, naked, exposed in the open, for all to experience... So, for whatever reason -- years of conditioning through societal shaming, a reactionary culture that dissuades difference, or an inability to embrace our natural selves -- we often want to hide. That's a problem. We should love the release: The utmost expression of our natural selves, a gift for others, and an invitation, encouraging others to do the same.
When your courage is in question, it's only a fragile, delicate-strength that holds the entire project together. Like a walk on a tightrope wire, there's little margin for error, and even with training, the last steps can be the most challenging.
What will help guide you safely to the other side?
A deep belief and an unbreakable trust that you'll make it.
Trust you'll make it.