A few months ago, as I was finishing up writing a bunch of new songs for the next Sci-Fi Romance record, we got some big news. We had another baby on the way. Then it turned out we had two babies on the way (Just goes to show, kids, the only 100% effective form of contraception is a cold, lonely bed). Since then, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons about being a human being who can only do so many things at once.
|The Thompson Twins. Not actual twins.|
When we got the news, here were some of the things I had going on:
- The next SFR album
- Bi-weekly solo performances around LA
- A comic book script with a friend
- A second job
- Teaching myself how to draw
- Weekly blog posts, and
- A pretty healthy Angry Birds addiction
That’s on top of, you know, already having a family and full-time job and everything. My schedule was pretty full, and I had this idea that I needed to get the album taken care of FAST. When the twins arrive, I figured, studio time would be a luxury time-drain I just couldn’t afford. But our drummer, Kurt, was temporarily out of commission because he just welcomed a son into the world, too. (We’re a very fertile band, so if anybody out there is having problems conceiving, we are still technically looking for a bassist…) So I’d have to play drums on the record with that timetable, in addition to guitar, vocals, etc., and I’m a little rusty on the kit these days, what with (see above).
Due to the physical demands of growing twins, my wife’s energy level plummeted much more quickly than it had in the past while growing humans one at a time. That meant that I had to pick up a bunch of additional responsibilities around the house really, really fast, and let some of my normal ones slide. Our yard died, for instance, but I was able to save the avocado tree. I know you were worried.
I made my friend wait far too long for my pages on the comic book script. I reduced hours on my second job. I reduced the blog output. I started eating less and somehow gained weight, which is infuriating. I even reduced the Angry Birds time! But still, I thought, I could get the record done, ideally before Halloween.
Alas, I finally had to make the painful admission that I am finite. There is only so much blood I can wring out of a single day. And if I had proceeded with an attempt to make an album right now, it would not have been the album it should have been, the album that it wanted to be, or the album you guys deserve.
That was a hard, hard pill to swallow. I’ve burned the candle at both ends a lot, and always took pride in the ability to Get. Shit. Done. But it just wasn’t going to happen this time. This isn’t a woe-is-me post, though. Quite the opposite, if I can pull it off.
See, when I admitted to myself that recording the album would have to wait — probably until the Spring — this tremendous weight was lifted off of me, and I suddenly felt like I could get some perspective on the other stuff. The reason why every single thing on that list up there is on there at all is because there’s something I love about doing each of them, but together they had started to feel like an ankle weight. That’s bad.
The arts are supposed to be a release — a way of dealing with the world or with feelings that demand expression and can put the rest of your life into a context that makes more sense. They’re supposed to be rewarding. When they’re not, something is out of balance. I know, as someone who has been an independent artist for a long time now, that most of the pressure we feel is often self-generated. We wake up early or go to bed late so we can write, we cannibalize our lunch hours (if we have them) to work on our own projects, we try to reclaim commute times however we can with audiobooks or instructional podcasts. You name it.
There is such a thing as necessary artistic discipline, the time we have to put in on a daily basis to refine our craft. But there’s also such a thing as losing the forest for the trees. Sometimes we need a little break.
And that’s ok. So if you are, like me, an artist who has suddenly realized that artistic output has stopped adding value to your daily routine and made it harder to cope with, cut yourself some slack. You are still you, and the stories you need to tell will wait until you can best tell them. If they are so important that they demand telling, then you owe those stories the best you can offer them. And you on two hours of sleep isn’t ever the best you’ve got.