April 3, 2021

Guarding the sanctity of the self


There are no good or bad feelings, only healthy and unhealthy ways of expressing them.

Jealousy, for example, is not a disease, a pathological syndrome, a lack of confidence or a projection of our worst fears. It’s just a feeling. And it can be used however we choose.

Nolan, in the captivating critical study of his films, jokes that when you’re an artist, you’re always looking to see if your scripts pass the jealousy test. Meaning, damn, I wish I was working on that project.

Isn’t that a perfect example of how difficult feelings like jealously don’t have to be a useless flight of irrationality and anger?

Seems to me, jealousy can be a useful emotional signal that, when learned to interpret correctly, can be channeled in the service of our creative goals.

In my songwriting career, many of my favorite tunes were composed solely out of jealously. Some singer wrote a song that was so touching and emotive to me, that I had no choice but to write my own version of it.

And not a cover version of their song, but my own creation. A piece of art that pays tribute to another piece of art that inspired me, through the lens of my own experience and talent.

Do you have a test like that for your own creative projects?

Keep in mind, jealousy doesn’t have to be the core emotion. You can start anywhere. The goal is to get yourself into a position where you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Where your creative spirit needs to answer the call to this dance.

You have to make something, anything, even if it’s not as good as the original, otherwise you will lose your goddamn mind.

There’s even a playlist on my phone for this very purpose. Two hundred songs that make me want to write songs. It’s like a jealousy dispenser. Anytime inspiration is running low, I simply cue up one song after enough, until my hands start making things.

And again, not good or bad feelings, just feelings. They don’t even last, either. Just emotional weather patterns that have a beginning, a middle and an end.

How do you stay inspired when it’s your job to inspire others?

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