Writing: I didn’t used to listen to music while writing. It was too distracting. Hearing the ideas of others seemed to invade my own thoughts, and it became a struggle. If I ignored them and went with the melody, it felt disrespectful: I would lose track and stop writing. If I listened: I would also lose focus and stop. The old confidence beast would again eat all the grass in my imaginary field and I was done. The voices would win and I would shout myself down before anyone else had the chance. Writing was about talking. I had to keep talking. Listening was the enemy.
Drawing: This was precisely the opposite of drawing. When I was drawing, I sort of needed other peoples’ thoughts to keep my own at bay. In silence, my mind will rip apart any illustration. I don’t need help failing, because I can do it with total efficiency. Here’s what would happen: I start out with the normal mix of ambition and curiosity (to see how something looks on paper vs. how it looks in my mind–for me, I always start from the curious place) but as I moved through the piece, inevitably doubt crept in and darkened the process. Listening to something created a sort of distraction-balance. I stopped criticizing and somehow waited… until the drawing is finished.
It was all very passive.
Writing: Is it age? Maybe. Am I exhausted with the voices? Definitely. Now I write and listen to everything. I don’t stop. I can’t stop. Sometimes, if a song is new and interesting, it can delay me a few minutes… and then I’m back to the page. I outline things now. I plan things. I stop and force myself to think. The river is there. Why not let it run and see where it goes? I go to bed and sleep fitfully because my ideas are there. I can still fail. I may still fail. It’s okay, though. Paralysis is no longer the default. Keep moving.
Drawing: It’s still a nightmare, but I’m not distracted. The river is moving, and I think I can figure something out.
It is active.
Here are a few songs I listened to today. Each of them made me pause and think (one of them may have made me cry, but I’m a sap)… and then I got on with it.