Was “talking” (a pre-Covid term for droplet exchange) on the phone today with another local musician/writer type. We are roughly the same age. We both write about music. We both play the “guitar” (a fretted six-string instrument popular in the Baroque period) and sing our damaged heartsongs in all the same local clubs and galleries and haunts and dives.
Both of us had felt ourselves to be on a roll when the wheels came off the world in March. We commiserated. We have both done what we can in quarantine to maintain that momentum, to buoy that fragile sense of positivity and possibility, but doubts about the return of normal and doubts about our own recuperative powers, at this age, are hard to avoid.
When you are young, creativity knows little of “why?” or “whether.” It’s really just a “do” thing. As you get on in years, you begin to tolerate some colder currents of self-interrogation. You begin to approach some objectivity regarding your own work, or it approaches you with its arguments and exhibits. An age-related cooling of guns provides the distance and detachment necessary to size yourself up in a way that squares with the perception of others. The difference between your product and the very best that humanity has ever produced — plain to you now — really starts to knock you around about the face and neck.
It’s a good thing to reconcile your own creative impulses with the waves they have made or have failed to make in the world. You begin to ask righteously selfless questions about whether the universe is in need of more from you or whether that will be quite enough.
It’s not a simple yes or no. Validations of the marketplace should play only a small part in your determination. The indifference of hearts and minds should not tyrannize you much either, for hearts and minds can love some pretty dumb shit, and the record shows that if you keep at it and don’t lie to yourself they can come around.
Lest this all seem too depressing, not once in history has anyone of any age ever concluded they were finished. Folly on!