“Wherever You Go, There You Are” is a lovely book about mindfulness and meditation and living in the present. I really like the title. It’s simple and provocative and says a lot in six words. But those words have another, darker, meaning. My problem is this: wherever I go, there I am. In other words, my issues follow me. One of them is trouble with changes. Not change. Changes. At the newspaper, once I’d written a story and the words were on the screen and I’d read them more times than I care to admit in the course of trying to get them right, it was like I’d been imprinted. I get stuck in first drafts, even when I know a piece could and should be stronger. It’s a forest-for-the-trees predicament. It’s why God invented editors.
Now I am a songwriter. Devoted readers (hi, Dad) will notice I’ve left out the usual qualifier — aspiring — because I’ve finished two songs and even if they’re garbage I’ve done the work. Yes, I’m going to post some music soon. And yes, changes are still kicking my ass. The pattern of dysfunction is reliable. It goes a little something like this.
1. Come up with chords, a melody, and lyrics.
2. Sing the song again and again and again.
3. Feel certain that a miracle has occurred.
4. Sing it some more.
The trouble starts when the euphoria fades and awareness dawns. I’m a music critic. I’ve got good ears. While the thrill of creating is powerful enough to mute objectivity, at least for a novice like me, it eventually dims to the point where I can tell something isn’t working. Maybe it’s something small. A clunky phrase. A hard-to-hit note. Maybe it’s something big. The song is boring. I can know this and yet for the life of me be unable to see my way to a new idea, a better choice, a neccessary change. I get stuck in the way things are. I get stuck as a writer of stories and songs, and in other ways, too. I suspect I’m not alone. I think as we get older we become entrenched in the comfort and safety of the familiar. At the same time we’ve lived long enough to know that complacency is a trap. Such a conundrum. I’ll defer to the experts.