Friday, 30 September 2011

Creative Refreshment

Something I love about blogging is that you can change direction at any time. I was all set to write a post on a totally different subject (you'll probably get that one next week), when I read this interview with singer/songwriter Leslie Feist. It's been four years since her last album The Reminder, which I loved, despite the fact that her music is really not to my usual tastes. So she must have been doing something right, and the new material sounds great. But my interest was piqued by the following:

Feist took a year-plus break from playing any music at all-- the longest sabbatical of her career thus far. "I almost had a chip on my shoulder about how much I didn't feel like playing," she says. "I wasn't curious anymore."

I've been in a creative low period over the last few months, and I'm sure we've all experienced that feeling of temporarily losing our muse. But to take a whole year off? That's pretty hardcore.

I would try to pick the guitar up sometimes, like, "Hey, remember me?" It was like reintroducing yourself to someone who's got a grudge. But there was this silence. I would put it down and be defeated.

Her idea of creative curiosity is an interesting one. Perhaps she was lucky, in that her last album had been successful enough to provide a financial cushion for her time off. Perhaps because she didn't have to play any music, she didn't feel motivated to try. To be honest though, it sounds like the experience of touring the same material night after night burnt her out - an idea that will be familiar to anyone who has spent too long staring at the same manuscript. Leaving my own novel in the box for two months had definite benefits in terms of stopping me fiddling with it. But because I was thinking about it every day, I'm not sure I really got that far away from it.

The other side of the coin from Feist are people who are prolific artists/writers/filmmakers. Another interview I was reading with Guillermo Del Toro (of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy fame) stated that he was in the habit of getting up at four in the morning, just so he could write a series of novels on top of his producing and directing duties. I am in awe of people like this. There is no way I could match the energy and work rate of someone like Del Toro or Stephen King, even if I didn't need any sleep at all!

As my kids never tire of telling me, "We're all different, Daddy." Everyone has to find the creative pattern that works for them, and overcome the mental blocks that stand in their way. Workaholism isn't generally recommended - it's said that a sitting US president ages at twice the rate of the rest of us. But there's also an argument for making the most of your day in the sun, grabbing every opportunity that success affords. Leslie Feist has deliberately turned her back on that idea, choosing to reject the market in favour of something more personally fulfilling.

I just made something for myself, and that feels better than any Grammy. I did what I wanted to do.

It'll probably still sell like hot cakes, mind.


1 comment:

  1. I tend to get antsy about taking ANY time out, because at several times in my life I've been forced to take lengthy periods of not-writing because of illness, horrible life stress or occasionally plain busyness. When none of these obtain, I feel there is no excuse for not getting the hell on with it!