The skin on my hands is dry, and it snags unpleasantly as I rub my palms together. When I walk, I feel a twinge near the top of my thigh, the kind that used to make my mum walk unevenly and now makes me wince as I walk around this corner. I worry that I’m not looking after myself well enough. But don’t I stay clean and well clothed? Don’t I give my body energy and sufficient sleep, albeit at unsuitable hours? Yes, I should drink more water, I should eat more fruit, I should moisturise every dry spot, and every spot that isn’t yet dry but will soon become dry if I don’t moisturise it, and how soon into my twenties should I feel the effects of ageing, whilst my peers are getting up at six and doing their vinyasa flows, and how normal is it for this much hair to fall out when I wash it, the fist of tangles that I extract from the comb and deposit at the end of the tub in whorls, ready to be flushed and forgotten, and does it mean I am I shrivelling up on the inside like a prune, if I don’t hydrate?
This isn’t the stuff of songs, is it? It seems like it would be difficult to form a concise, poetic idea around these worries. And yet I’m sure people manage it. I might be able to, if I had to time to sit down and work on it.
A lot of people have said to me, or I’ve read in quotes, that if you really want to create music and you’re really ambitious about it, then you’ll make time. I feel bad that I’m waiting for the time and space, like I’m making excuses for myself. But past examples work in my favour – I only made music before when I had no pressures or obligations, aside from setting a bit of student work each morning. And I had the freedom to spend twelve hours perfecting a mix, staying up until 6am, out of an urge to perfect my output. Now I just stay up til 6am because I can’t stop watching Trixie and Katya videos on Youtube, and I tell myself I’m not the only one sabotaging themselves. Doesn’t everyone do it just a little bit? Don’t the people on tiktok (dread the thought) relate to that dilemma? Sometimes it’s perversely pleasurable to revel in self-sabotage, the way smoking a cigarette consciously sabotages your health by a fraction of a degree, and leaving a deadline to 72 hours before sabotages your chance of doing quite as well as you could have with consistent long-term effort.
In truth, I only want to be ambitious about my music if I can be sure of feeling proud of it. I want that sublime eureka moment to strike (which isn’t too much to ask, as I know how easily it comes in times of rest). It reliably delivers the work that carries the sort of magic I’m looking for. There are maybe two songs that I’ve written that, when I listen to them again, I’m not quite sure how I did it. These are the songs I’m proudest of. I want to feel like, when I’m pushing the material forward, when I push myself forward as a candidate for success, that I am less of an imposter, that I belong at that table. It’s a metaphor I use quite a lot, having a seat at the table. But that’s what it will feel like. In my head I imagine the round dining tables of award ceremonies. I don’t need to win anything, I don’t need industry validation in quite the same way. And I might change my mind, feel guilty for pandering to a restrictive version of Success with a capital S – after all, what does that really look like? There are boxes you can tick – being played on certain radio stations, playing certain festivals, certain stages and venues. But great artists redefine what success looks like every decade.
Maybe one day I just want to be able to play my guitar and pay my bills. That would be nice… yes, it would be very nice.