Thursday, September 4, 2014

Divine Dissatisfaction

Funny how I find myself, at 29 years old, practicing with a cover band in a beat up practice space in Burbank after all this time playing in a band professionally, after everything that I've been through and all the musical experiences I've had that have taken me all over the world. 

I don't have my own bunk on a tour bus anymore or my own guitar tech who sets up my equipment each day and occasionally spoils me with a fresh water bottle and clean towel.  

We will play gigs at venues that nobody has ever heard of. While I battle broken vending machines and weave my way through halls filled with smokers, punk-rockers, and wannabe roadies, I have to remind myself, I'm not starting over. Not really. I'm simply starting, and that's a difficult thing to do after one has stopped for awhile.

The two practices I've had with the cover band have been brutal. I'm never satisfied with my tone. Lugging my amp, my pedal-board case, and my two guitars down the street and in and out of the practice space is a joke. The 2nd guitarist in the band and I haggle over who gets to play what solo. (I swear that when I leave the room to use the bathroom he turns down my amp, but I haven't gotten anyone else to confirm this yet.) 

I've failed every attempt I've made to play a solo at practice. The sparkling riffs and fluid solos I practice relentlessly at home sound like a cat's claws scratching a metal waste can when I play them at rehearsal. I almost have a heart attack any time the singer says, "Alright, let's play 'Hard To Handle' ". (I play the solo in that one.) 

The bass player is on my side in any band argument. (There are many, even though the five of us are complete strangers to each other.) Joey and I are always joking about how the guitar player and the lap-steel player change the keys of the songs at every practice. Joey, and I can't figure out how our two singers never notice the tendons in their neck tensing up as they struggle to reach higher and higher notes. 

You might be wondering why I bother to play in this cover band if things are so terrible? 

The truth? 
I've never been so happy. 

It's a struggle and a challenge. Sure. I haven't gone through a whole practice yet without the the thought of quitting guitar all together. That thought is how I know I'm on the right track to fulfilling my true potential as an artist. 

It's what Steven Pressfield refers to as the "great resistance" in his book, The War Of Art.  He says the closer you get to creating the best art within you, the louder the Great Resistence screams, telling your psyche all sorts of lies like: you will never be good enough, or you must be a crazy lunatic thinking you are going to be anything other than mediocre.

But I'm playing lead guitar in a band for the first time in my life, and although the improvements are small, they are STILL improvements. I'm learning every day, challenging myself every time I pick up my instruments, and it feels amazing! Horrible, but amazing, if that makes sense. Ha!

The small inconveniences are just that, small inconveniences, and in the big scheme of things, they don't matter an iota when it comes to the dreams I've got in store for myself.

So, although I drive home frustrated and cursing my small hands and asking myself why don't my fingers work faster, and why can't my brain communicate to my hands how to play more efficiently, after I roll down the car window and peek out at the one or two stars in the night sky (yes, I live in L.A.) and my fuming subsides, I remembert:

Because I am so upset about not improving fast enough, because I'm frustrated with my skills and my solos, because my disappointments make me down right irate, that MUST mean I care deeply about being the best musician I can possibly be and I have great respect for my craft. I'll never live up to the standards I set for myself. I can only hope to get so, so close one day. 

I love this quote by MArtha Graham:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. 

It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

So when you feel that struggle, that frustration welling up in the pit of your stomach when you are working on your art, keep going. Don't stop now. You're getting so, so close. 


1 comment:

  1. So, sometimes I ask myself... Why do I read some peoples blogposts, follow some peeps on Twitter, Youtube or Instagram... or buy and listen to their music/art? Well...Its because I like their story. Your life, your journey is like a book... and I am reading it cover to cover! Why? Maybe because its genuine, authentic and ever-changing.

    I want to keep reading.... so keep living, exploring and re-inventing please:)