Friday, September 18, 2009

Frustrated by the gap

Let me just say I'm frustrated by the gap between an inspired idea and its effective realization. In this case it's the gap between a finished (brilliant!) song and a proper (adequate) recording of that same song. Writing a song takes 2-4 hours. Recording a song takes 20-40 hours. The idea seemingly comes floating into my life for free, but the realization carries a heavy price: my life — or at least a discrete fraction of it.

Of course, this gap (and its accompanying frustration) is not unique to songwriting, or even to creative work. In every field of endeavor, the mind moves quickly, but the physical body is slow and clumsy. The spirit has access to infinite possibilities, but the material world is all about limitations and imperfections.

Life is full of limitations, like having two perfectly good songs and time to record only one of them. And imperfections, like my guitar playing that (no matter what I do) always seems to be a little bit out of tune.

You might be faced with different limitations and imperfections, but I'm sure that you have your own gap between inspiration and realization, and I'm sure that it gets frustrating sometimes.

We wish we could close the gap, bring the idea to perfect realization in no time at all, but we know it will never happen. At best we can narrow the gap a little bit. Even if I got my guitar playing all figured out, I would still be struggling with some other aspect of recording.

The only way to get rid of the gap is to reject the inspiration, to close the door on it, to say "things are fine the way they are, and I don't want to create anything new." But that's not a solution; that's just giving up.

A better solution is simply to feel better about the frustration. Take it as a sign that you're alive, that you have something you care strongly about, that you're engaged in a worthy struggle. Learn to love the gap. It's your playing field in a game that challenges your skills like no other. As long as you're in the gap, you know that your game is still on.

On Fridays, I write about my own songwriting efforts and personal opinions.

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