Of what benefit is knowledge? That depends on how well one is able to apply it. We can certainly know a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean we are always able, or even willing, to properly apply that knowledge when called upon. We may know that eating certain foods can trigger allergic reactions but if we are not motivated to act upon that knowledge we still eat them — and suffer the consequences.
In order for knowledge to be truly valuable it has to become part of our motivation. It has to trickle down from the brain to the heart, so to speak. Only then will we react in accordance with that knowledge.
I realized this myself once more. There are things I’ve posted in the past talking about what inspires and motivates me to write, only to walk away and return to my writer’s block state of mind. We all tend to sometimes look in all the wrong places, maybe because it seems to be easier over there, or we don’t really believe what we know to be true or achievable. I’ve known since childhood that the one and only thing that truly inspires me and motivates me to write, more precisely write stories, is music. I know that I learned walking by music, my father turning the balance knob on his stereo and little me following “the sound of music” from one speaker to the other (they stood several feet apart). I know my mother was and still is a classical music expert and she exposed me to the greats of old from an early childhood on. I’ve been listing to them ever since I can think. And as I grew older I didn’t simply buy music and let it play in the background, no, I sat down, 12/13 years old, and deliberately listened to a whole album, making out all the nuances while all the while dreaming, traveling off to far away fantastic lands. Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Kitaro, Tangerine Dream, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith — all of them and many more have taken me on some truly fantastic journeys.
But it’s not just listening, it’s also very much playing myself. While I don’t master any particular instrument, I can play a bit piano and flute and certainly keyboard, I truly enjoy playing with sounds and melodies (I am able to read notes though). I’ve been “composing” for years, decades at this point in my life. And with that music came the stories: the title theme to a Sci Fi epic I once wanted to write, little parts for a fantastical musical, pieces of music for spy thrillers. And then, one day, it took on much more concrete forms.
In 2006 I’ve published “Infiltrator — A Musicnovel”. It’s a nine track album, a soundtrack to an imaginary futuristic thriller. The music inspired the story. None of the tracks were created deliberately, they were all a result of the music simply coming to me. And as I created track after track I began seeing a pattern and ultimately arranged it all into a story of a special agent uncovering a devious threat. I created an outline of each track’s events. And then I got curious. I signed up with various indie music sites and services promoting the album (which I actually made available as a self-published CD). I got good airplay on college radio and even a few local radio stations, had two of my tracks included on a compilation CD in Asia and even made 3rd place in the dance category in the 14th Billboard World Songwriting Contest a few years back. I felt truly connected to the one thing that inspires me the most. And then I abandoned it.
It wasn’t because I was afraid of anything, the feedback I had received was extremely positive, I’ve had the founder of world famous German electronica group Tangerine Dream commending me on my budding music. I received a very positive review by a website dedicated to soundtracks only — quite a feat since “Infiltrator” isn’t truly a soundtrack. No, it certainly wasn’t fear. I simply felt overwhelmed, not with success, it was moderate, but with the shear amount of work involved in promoting my music. I had joined many websites, including the infamous MySpace, made some nice contacts but ultimately felt disillusioned. I came up with the term “Lemonade Stand Syndrome” or LSS for short. What is LSS? Imagine two kids selling lemonade but doing it where no one can find them. After a while they start selling it to each other. Eventually all the lemonade is gone and the same buck has been passed back and forth. Very disappointing, not to mention devastating to their humble business. On every site I joined the result was the same: we were all musicians looking for exposure and simply becoming each others’ “fans” without ever accomplishing the reason for joining in the first place — finding our audience (aside from the positive effect of making some friends with like minded musicians). More than that, all of these sites charge musicians to use their services, most of them being rather useless truth be told. Thus I closed account after account until I felt like I had never made much progress.
I am certainly not one to be easily discouraged. But this felt different. I began to think that being independent was not such a good idea after all. In addition I’ve always been rather shy about my own work, while I can be very supportive of other people’s work, and all this self promotion felt simply odd, desperate in a sense.
The reason I am talking about this experience is that I know there are many creatives out there who share similar feelings. Sometimes we set out exploring, wondering what might be around the next corner, only to find ourselves in an environment that’s not exciting at all anymore and we may have to back track and find the path we were originally on. The promise of the web is independence from established structures, like publishers, by seemingly empowering us to do it all on our own. And that’s where it gets difficult. Because we can’t do it all on our own. The more time we spend on promoting ourselves the less time we have to be creative. There is limited time each day and the more time I spend on one task the less I have to spend on another. We are, indeed, not independent at all, we depend on others. We need people to do the things we simply don’t have the time or energy to do. We need support. We even need endorsement. It feels great to be written about on the web but it feels even better to be mentioned in or on a respected magazine or site or to be recommended by a favorite artist of ours.
To recap briefly and to connect the dots back to the beginning of the post, needing to apply knowledge for it to be truly valuable, I have acquired knowledge not only of what I am truly passionate about but also how one can exude a lot of time and energy on the wrong approach to share that passion. Now I need to ensure I apply that knowledge and not repeat past errors while also applying the knowledge that, if I want to write stories I need to compose music first. Thus I am open to suggestions — and experiences. How has your creative progressions been on the web? Please feel free to share your story in the comments or point me to your post.
This post was in part motivated by Diana Baur’s post titled “the simple art of interdependence” and I highly recommend reading it. My wife Holly Becker also wrote something similar a few years back.
And at the very end of this post, reluctantly so due to the odd feeling associated, I do like to point to my music being available on iTunes and Amazon.