I was asked to write a guest blog for the Songwriter's Association of Canada. The blog can be found here and my article is below...
Creation is an act of continual death and rebirth. Songwriters are quick to talk about the spark, that effervescent moment of inspiration but I think we are sometimes negligent in our recognition of the importance of dissolution and decay within the processes of art. The idea, that’s the easy part, and though ideas often feel as though they alight upon us unexpectedly and precocial, the truth is, ideas are a proverbial phoenix rising from the burnt out ashes of all our little deaths.
Energy always has to come from somewhere; it transforms from one medium into another, an infinite spiral unfurling. Words and notes are energy, so every time a new lilt of phrase, a fresh melody opens wet wings, it came from the pyre of all the words, all the echoing notes played before. Your words, my words, your notes, my notes, thousands of years of gestating substance, all waiting to be sifted through and germinated anew.
Sounds grand doesn’t it? On a personal level, this plays out every day in every conscious act of creation. I have thought about this a lot over the last four months as I recorded and released my fourth CD, Scorpion Moon. At every stage of this journey, I have had to let things go in order to clear a pathway for the possibility of growth. Something as simple as finalizing an arrangement is a type of death; the tying of ideas into static form, corralling them, severing all the branching edges to create something concrete to share with the world. There are many little deaths and I think it’s important to acknowledge that within the tremendous gain that comes from manifesting a project into reality that inherent within that process is also loss; more eminently this loss is as important to our development as artists as the gain. I know I discard as much as I keep, perhaps more, while I condense thought and meaning into a singular form that gathers momentum beyond the edges of my influence. And far from seeing these exiled notes and words as orphans, lost to the world, I see them as the bones forming beneath the surface of every song to come.
As if to drive this point home, as I ushered into being this long awaited and immensely satisfying piece of art, many aspects of my personal life literally fell to pieces. Far from this being a creative impetuous, in fact it has often felt the opposite and I am struck by the notion of allowing the forest to burn to the ground before renewal can begin. Sometimes you just have to let things burn.
Through it all, I am reminded over and over that this is what growth feels like, the sudden shifting of an axis, the painful extension of self. My dad wrote me an email in the midst of the spiraling chaos of mixes, graphics and dissolving certitudes. His words, “The longer I live, the less I seem to know with certainty. An exception is this. I know that when life presents you with pain and difficulty, the universe is asking you to grow”. If I may extend this outwards, pain within the process of art is a harbinger for creative evolution only if we allow ourselves to truly experience the passage fully, every little birth, every little death. True art requires a commitment to destruction as much as to creation. We have to be willing to deconstruct ourselves and our art over and over for there to be the possibility of rebirth. Remember, on the other side of those smouldering ruins of beliefs – of perspectives – of spectacular failure is a glorious phoenix just waiting to be reborn.