My age. Kicking ass.
“This is life. This is it.”
Plus, he’s a snake.
My age. Kicking ass.
If it seems like I’ve been scarce around these parts, it’s because I have been. Changes are afoot at Middle Mojo. I’ve decided to take a hiatus from the website in order to focus my time and energy, at least for a spell, on songwriting. How long is a spell? I don’t know. All I know is that I need to go down this rabbit hole. The moment may not come again — god knows it’s taken a long time to get here — and I’m seizing it.
In the year since launching this project, I’ve set out to be both dedicated journalist and budding artist. To talk with the masters about aging and creativity and to explore my own creativity as I age. To become a songwriter and at the same time chronicle the process of becoming a songwriter. What I’ve learned, among other things, is that these tasks involve wildly differently parts of a person’s mind and attention. One requires critique and analysis, the other vanquishing critique and analysis. One involves pointed thought, the other opening the mind in ways that I’m just beginning to grasp.
I’m going to write about this adventure. But first I’m going to have this adventure.
I’ll continue posting songs and making the occasional blog entry, but I imagine they’ll be few and far between. Wish me luck. Write me notes. Send white light, if you’re so inclined, because the mystery deepens even as it unfolds. And because I suspect, dear reader, we’re in this together.
I’m writing a moody rock song about the mall. It’s pretty dark and sort of pretty and there isn’t much of a rhyme scheme but I’m enjoying the literalness of it. I like a lyric that looks you in the eye. There’s something mesmerizingly literal about EMA’s “California.” It’s also mesmerizingly stream-of-consciousness. That’s a neat trick. I can’t look away. Here’s to pointing fingers and naming names and my home state.
I’ve been reading again. Tragically, I’d stopped for a while. Since striking out on my own it seems like there’s always something more important to do. Write a blog post. Work on a song. Prepare for an interview. Tweet. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Reading seemed like a luxury. But it’s not. Quite the opposite, as it turns out.
I’ve just finished “Poser,” by Claire Dederer. It’s a memoir about yoga and family life and expectations — the expectations we have of ourselves, the expectations we imagine everyone else has of us, and how we navigate the murky divide between the two. I chew on that one a lot. You might assume that a grown woman such as myself, a thinking person who has lived a little, maybe more than a little, would know the difference between what she wants and what she believes she should want. You would be wrong. Which is why when I arrived at this one line I stopped and closed the book and stared into space for a really long time like I’d been conked on the head with something heavy. Which I had.
What if the opposite of good wasn’t bad? What if the opposite of good was real?
I know I’ve been getting all philosophical but, goddamn, what a notion. It applies to everything. Songwriting. Relationships. Decisions. Housecleaning. It’s revolutionary. It’s liberating. It’s a tonic and a corrective and an angle of approach that throws judgement out the window. People ask me what my goals are. For a while I said I want to write some songs. Lately I’ve been saying I want to write some good songs. Now I’m thinking all I want to do is remember what I set out to be at the beginning of this project: sincere.
Oil painting by Todd Ford
I just finished reading Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta. The book is about a 40-something former rock ‘n roll wunderkind, Nik, a recluse who keeps making brilliant music, and his sister, Denise. It’s about true obsession and tenuous family bonds and time passing. It’s about how everyone and everything is shaped by the confounding feedback loops between memory and identity and art and life and authenticity and invention. The story takes place at the intersection of what might have been and what really is, a place you won’t be able to locate with GPS but where you will almost certainly find yourself on a dark night, at which time you may, like Denise, conclude that you have “in middle age become a person whose deepest emotional moments happened vicariously.”
I’ve never quite framed it in those terms, but I think the prospect of turning into that person is the reason I decided to stop writing about songs and start writing songs. I spent so many years on the outside looking in. Here’s how it’s been with me and music: like falling in love and following the guy around for a couple of decades and writing about him in your journal (or the newspaper) without ever introducing yourself, or going on a date, or kissing.
I grew weary of being an observer. I grew frightened of the creeping sense of detachment. I wanted to say less and do more. A lot of people think those deep emotional moments Spiotta writes about are the province of the young. We’re supposed to grow up and out of it. Adults are supposed to value familiarity over novelty, practicality over passion, stabililty over adventure. To which I say, bullshit.
Vicarious Encounters by Matt Belk