Creative rut

I am in a creative rut, musically speaking.

For the past several months, I did little in the way of creating new music. I played my guitar, and futzed around with some new ideas, but I didn’t come up with anything that I liked.

More recently, however, I’ve been focusing more of my attention toward actually writing something that I’m going to enjoy playing. And as of today, though, I still have little more than scraps.

At times, I’ve played some songs that I wrote in the past. I’m talking about stuff that I wrote more than five years ago, or more than ten years ago. Music that I can certainly find fault with, but is nevertheless challenging and beautiful, in its own way.

My favorite song to play is one that I started and completed within the past two years. It’s not recorded, because it’s not ready yet – I’m still sort of learning it. However, it was one of those songs that started out as an idea that I scrapped, picked up again, drastically reworked, and then added to until it became fairly fully-realized. I love playing it, and would like to record it some day.

That song, however, is not really new anymore.

I have really been enjoying playing my electric guitar. It sounds great – it’s the best-sounding guitar that I have ever owned – and that in itself is an inspiration and a motivator. However, there is conflict within me about whether I should be trying to write on it as opposed to my inferior-sounding acoustic guitar.

The acoustic guitar is a great instrument for playing and singing by yourself – once you get a song down, you can easily make something that sounds pretty good, because the guitar and your hands are providing the tones, and your voice can settle into the song nicely. The electric, on the other hand, can be a viable solo instrument, but for me, it’s more difficult to make music that way. My guitar, a Stratocaster, is plugged into a bass amp, and the clean tones that I get are very pleasing to me. An amplified electric guitar is more volatile in nature than an acoustic – tones can sound great, but mistakes sound more pronounced, and volume can be less predictable. Since I am a mistake machine, I feel like my desire to create something worthwhile on the instrument is constantly being subverted by my inability to make what I create sound good.

However, I’m sort of getting away from what I was originally talking about.

The music that I created five or ten years ago sounds inspired, and I know that it’s good. I’ve always wanted to build upon that music, and continue to make better and better music. What I’m finding, though, is that the stuff I’m working on is comparatively more basic. A positive way of looking at it would be to say that it’s more minimalistic in nature. Indeed, when I get done playing something that I’ve been recently working on, I sometimes walk away with a Breeders song stuck in my head. It’s good stuff, to be sure. But I have to get over the internal conflict that I have right now, which is wanting to write good music, not technical music, not “dumb” music (“dumb” being self-derogatory, not directed at anyone who makes good, relatively easy-to-play music). I don’t have to make intricacy the goal. Hopefully, I can learn to let the song happen, and not censor myself too much. Otherwise, I fear that I’ll just end up beating my head against the wall, and have nothing to show for it.

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