Change in the Temple

I don’t remember when it happened, but one day I woke up feeling a need to create. I wanted to make music, so I learned as much as possible about the art. For a long time, my life revolved around it. Then one day, about three years ago, I woke up hating everything about it. My hatred had a lot to do with external influences, but I still hated the outlet that I’d relied upon for more than fifteen years. This was an absolutely gigantic change to my life. It took me a year of wondering what had happened to fully understand why I hated this form of art so much. Once I did understand what had gone wrong, I decided to change my primary form of expression to writing. I’d been writing poetry for more than a decade already, so it was nothing new. That said, I’d never written anything of substantial length outside of college. Even then, it was never fiction.

I didn’t know how to handle all of the writing that I felt I needed to do. I started with a few poetry books in mind, my grand scheme grew with plans for a novel, then again with a collection of short stories. I’d love to be able to complete these things before turning thirty, but at twenty-seven with no clue how to work on these projects, my creativity was put on hold for yet another year. I wrote parts of short stories and some poetry, I even started my novel, but it didn’t feel like any of it had real value. I had detailed outlines and checklists, why wasn’t I able to sit down and focus on anything?

My objective was just to power through whatever I wanted to work on, yet I sat at my keyboard and found it difficult to make progress. I felt as though just as I took a breath of clean air by setting new goals and someone plopped a large hunk of gooey mud atop my keys. Thinking about why writing was so difficult to me took another few months. Now I have what I consider to be well defined goals, an organized path towards them, and am able to follow through with my plans.

It took me so long to think about all of this because, at least to me, it’s all a very complex process. Having it documented here may help someone else who is going through a similar stage in life. Maybe I will refer to it in the future when I stray from the path and get lost. Here are some things to think about that helped me get to this point.

1. What was it that satisfied my needs?

Making music put me in a womb. All of my senses dropped out and I focused everything in my being on spontaneous creativity. It was addicting. I craved as much as possible out of that addiction and got burned. It didn’t help that I made pretty strange experimental music, which leads to my next thought:

2. How much does my satisfaction rely on others?

A lot. Much more than writing. I often say now days that music is my meditation, writing is my expression. When I was solely focused on making and sharing my music, I didn’t recognize that different needs can be satisfied by a number of art forms. My mistake with music was setting goals that relied on other people. In my experience, most people will not care at all.

3. Can what I want out of all this change?

This took a lot of soul searching. I’d spent a long time believing there was only one way to satisfy my itch to create. I wanted to play shows that people would want to hear again. Since my music was odd, it naturally drove most people away. A voice being projected from my head and onto paper, that’s probably going to be more acceptable. However, writing is so different from music that I don’t crave sharing it in the same way. I still want people to experience my art, but I’ve had to change the way I give it to them.

4. If I don’t create for others, why do I create?

To me, writing, especially poetry, is therapy. It’s pushing my experiences out of my body and into the physical world. Music was a tool I used to satisfy my inner need to create. Both have their place, but I find it is easier to get satisfaction from an art form that, in the way I use it relies on others less.

These definitely aren’t the only things I spent a year and a half pondering, but I think they’re pretty important for artists to consider. Whatever my medium or hobby de jour, whatever goals I have, it’s nice to be able to find the deeper reason why I value an activity.

Author: A. M. Langston

Poet and Novelist

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