SCP #74: Needle And Skin
My last post was Thursday, which seems like an eternity ago as the last few days have been really difficult. This project was never meant to be easy, although up to now it has never felt impossible, and I've generally kept to my deadlines and retained my confidence in my ability to churn out new music when required. Over the weekend, however, I fell apart and spent a large part of it paralysed by anxiety. My rational brain knew that if I could just sit down and do the work I would end up with something, but when I tried I was unable to concentrate and found the anxiety expressing itself in physical symptoms, which is something I haven't really experienced before.
In the past when I have felt anxiety related to creative projects it usually only lasts a day, and after a good night's sleep I wake up in the cold, rational light of the morning sheepish and slightly ashamed at how far I let myself sink into negative self talk. This weekend, sleep didn't really help, and after a very anxious Thursday I woke up feeling just as bad on both Friday and Saturday mornings. I was getting particularly hung up on the song that I was meant to be Thursday's piece, as it wasn't turning out the way I wanted, and the more I worked at it the worse it seemed to get. It seems so silly thinking about it now that I am in a better frame of mind, and my self today would tell my self of Friday to just scrap the song that wasn't working and do something else instead. But of course hindsight makes everything clearer.
While driving yesterday I caught part of this discussion on ABC Radio National on the difference between striving for excellence, which is a positive pursuit, and striving for perfection, which can hinder rather than help your progress. This was incredibly timely, and I think it lies at the heart of my problem, as I am finding as I work through this project that some days I am better at controlling my tendencies toward perfectionism than others.
After some very brief reading on the problem of perfectionism the one element that sticks out is the tendency of perfectionist thinking to focus on the end result rather than the journey or process to get there. This resonates with my experience over the weekend, and my focus on producing a piece of music that lived up to my expectations was creating a rigid mindset that was not compatible with the flexibility required to engage with the songwriting process. Clearly this distinction between perfectionism and excellence is something I need to start working on in my practice, and I plan to do some extensive reading on the topic over the next few weeks.
This piece is not the song that was giving me so much trouble. It's an improvisation using a piece of text I'd written on Thursday and then put aside in favour of another idea. My starting point was ink from the previous day.