beware of deep thoughts and banjos

i built a banjo a few years back as a part of some really heavy duty therapy. my entire world was falling apart around me and i sought refuge in a hot garage in iowa with some hand tools and a pile of kindling. slowly but surely i fashioned it into a not-half-bad banjo. i’d never played a banjo before and come to think of it, i don’t think i have since. well, a banjo other than the one i made that is. that was back on ’05. until this week, i never put the banjo in front of a mic.

the banjo is a deliciously difficult instrument to mic for someone with no experience. it sounds hollow and like it has its own reverb. it’s weird, but i had fun. the sketch this week is a simple improvisation on the banjo filled out with a rhythm guitar and bass. don’t be afraid. there are no faux drums on this track. i’m slowly but surely learning. check out the sketch at the bottom of the post.

as for the deep thoughts, well, i sent an email to my old buddy rande today. i think it makes for a good post on where my head is creatively so here it is.

I’m thinking a lot these days. My blog post from the other week was only the tiniest tip of the iceberg. The fact is, I’m focusing a lot of effort on my creative process and what it means to be creative in this time. I’ll be honest and say for the record that I’m one of those disaster nuts. I honestly think that in 30 years we will be looking back on this as one of the hardest times since the depression. I really do feel like we’re in free fall but there’s no window for us to see how fast we’re falling or how far. In a climate like that, what does a creative act mean?

What I was getting at on the blog, and you’re just going to have to suck it up and let me know if I’m nuts, is that this is a great time to be a creative person! We have more access to more stuff than at any time in history. Look at how many paintings da Vinci actually got to spend time with. How many pieces of music did Beethoven hear (before he went deaf)? We have so much input and there are so many voices that it’s hard not to get lost in it all.

The one drawback that I find is that the more I see, the more I feel like I need to be productive. Do you know what I mean? When you see hundreds or thousands of people each doing something it feels like I should be doing enough to match all of them together. It’s not good enough to create a song a week when I’m listening to a dozen or more new tunes every day. There’s no reason for this anxiety. At least no rational one. But there it is. Leave it to the human mind to take something so positive and generate a reason to worry about it.

There is so much to learn and with the access that we have today it’s really a question of deciding what’s worth investing time in and what’s not. And that leads to the larger question of: what do you want to spend your life doing? This implies that we have to pick and choose because we only have so much time. Mortality is a buzz kill.

I spend an hour in my studio every night. Usually 8 to 9 PM. This is after bed time for the dude and during a time when Stacey is usually doing something creative on her own. It’s only an hour, but I spend all day thinking about how I’m going to use it. I often find that I’ve done what I want to do in 30 minutes because after thinking about it for so long I’m so focused that it just comes out the way that it should. That’s not to say that what I post weekly is anything more than a sketch. These certainly aren’t polished products, but they’re “done for now.”

I’m also building instruments. It is so very relaxing, making things with my hands. I wish I had started sooner so that I could have built up more skill by now. Not that I need to be good at it, but it’d be nice. I generally work on that stuff on the weekends or do the odds and ends that are possible with a small boy running around the room or on my lap. It’s so very satisfying to have a tangible end product. That it feeds into what I’m doing in my other creative time is just a bonus.

What am I trying to say here? There are a million directions and I have chosen two for now. And there has never been a better time for doing either of them, I think.

Where is your head? Where is your process? What kind of time are you investing in your work?

And if I may be so bold, what’s your current creative goal? Do you have an end game? Because that’s where I am really stuck. I know I want to build my idea of The Guitar. I also know that I want to release at least one collection of new songs before the end of the year. But that’s all I know and it’s really vague. Or it feels vague.

that ends rather abruptly but the questions i pose to my buddy are valid for anyone who is creating today. where are you headed? what are you getting done?

today’s sketch: sketch-24-mar-2009

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sketch 24 mar 2009 by j.c. wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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