Monday, January 28, 2013

The Pot of Old Socks at the End of the Rainbow

Artistic fulfillment. So stinking elusive. You just have to fall back on the old cliche: the fulfillment just has to come from the doing; not the having done; not the accolades.

My band played on Saturday night to a pretty packed room. The place is biggish, too. Usually, we get a lot of positive feedback -- people dancing and singing along; a lot of smiles; a lot of high-fives when we come out with a song someone is surprised we are playing. We're usually pretty good at picking them, especially in that particular room.

Not last night. Last night, with the exception of a few moments, we might as well have been playing to a room full of cacti. It was like serving tennis balls into a hanging blanket. So what did we do? We played. We decided just to have fun. We sort of did, but, it was one of those nights you look forward to wrapping up.

Great American songwriter, Jimmy Webb -- who "gets it."
With my own original music, I find that, with Internet radio play -- Spotify, Radio Airplay, etc. -- that people are responding very favorably. Hundreds are people are bothering to become "fans" of my songs, from New York to Great Britain to Singapore and Japan.

It's cool, I admit, to see that a person in Egypt heard one of my songs and bothered to say they liked it.

Still, I find myself saying, "Great. Everyone loves my stuff; now, if only they would bother to actually pay for the album -- or at least the song they say they like so much."  (Sure, they like it, but not ten dollars' worth.)

I got paid to play last night, but I got no feedback.

I get all kinds of positive feedback for my original music, but I don't get paid for it.

I listen to my own work, sometimes. It's fulfilling to do -- it is a weird thing; an interesting trip into my own sonic maze; a trip that is  fraught with a pretty organic kind of deconstructionism. But it gets old pretty fast. (Odd that a CD looks like a mirror; I don't want to wind up turning into a flower, either through gazing with eyes or with ears.)

So, I write. I compose. Because when I do those things, there is reward in each step. There has to be, because I know that, in whatever form, there is a pot full of (mostly) disappointment at the end of the rainbow. The only treasure in there is a mix of a few pieces of gold, some old socks, a couple of old gum wrappers and maybe the odd handshake.

Just keeping on doing it is its own reward. For that, I'm grateful. I suppose one doesn't have to be an artist to reap the joys of doing. One just needs to recognize the flimsiness of the rewards of having-done and of the adoration of others and just get on with gettin' on...


  1. I'm reminded of "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty: "Just one more year, and then you'll be happy..."

    When I was starting out as a writer, I often thought that if I could only write for this or that magazine or get my book published, I'd be able to kick back and take satisfaction in the having-done of it. I now find that while those accomplishments continue to open doors, they've slipped into the past and are no longer as satisfying as the rush of creating whatever the next thing will be.

  2. For me, the only permanent satisfaction in those things is knowing that I was able to do it. Even if I continue to wallow in obscurity, I will always know I had the stuff to write, perform and produce an album of my own songs -- that I could at least finish writing a couple of novels. The rest is icing, I guess. While the accolades I might get will wear off, the knowledge that I could finish what I started will always be cool. So I guess neither of us has much to complain about, in that respect, at least.