I am terrible at getting things done. I have no problem coming up with ideas. I have notebooks full of ideas. A couple of them might even be good ideas. I can easily determine the best idea and quickly focus all my energies in this new direction. I am truly great at hard work. I am terrible at getting things finished.
When we found out we were expecting our first child, I had a to-do list with only two items on it. Before she was born, I would clean out the garage and release the collection of songs I had just started working on. My project, Judgment, came out when she was three. She will be ten in April and I still haven’t cleaned the garage.
I was only able to finish Judgment when the incessant haunting by the ghost of the unfinished project outweighed the nagging fear that it would never sound exactly how I wanted. I begin a new project with a great vision for every minute detail. I sometimes get vaguely close. Most often the details become overwhelming. I keep chasing it until a squirrel runs by and I start chasing a new project that I know I will never finish. At least I am aware of my neurosis.
This song is not autobiographical but it is one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written. I am not sure why but this is an emotional song for me to perform. I have only played it twice in front of people since I wrote it in 2012. Playing this song feels like I am bearing my soul or like it’s the first day of third grade and I forgot my pants. Or maybe I don’t play it because I have never been happy with that one line in the first verse.
“He Liked to spend his days with a little dog named Napoleon.”
It’s my art, I can name the dog anything I like. But seriously, who would name a dog Napoleon? “Here Nappy.” “Sit Nappy.” At the risk of ostracizing any potential fans who have dogs named Napoleon (I am sure this is a large cross-section of my readership) I think this is the stupidest dog name ever.
I know that I wrote it. It just sort of came out and has been a “placeholder” since 2012. I often come back to work on this song and I have never been able to come up with anything better. If you have any ideas, I am open for suggestions. The line wouldn’t have to be about a dog, it could be anything. I guess subconsciously I always wanted a dog and nobody will let me get one…
Sitting alone with a dog seems to fit the character. It could be a cat but that seems cliché. A little dog with a powerful name seems to fit fine. It sets a tone, it’s weird and awkward but you don’t quite know why.
I decided to record this song and put it out into the world because it’s good enough.
My wife and I had a discussion recently about how at our current point in life, we are solely focused on “good enough.” Being a perfectionist is not an option with twins. Survival mode kicks in. Cooking nice dinners is out of the question. Eating spoonfuls of peanut butter from a jar is often the best option. Unless an action has a clear measurable result, it isn’t worth doing. This may sound rather defeatist but really it’s about priorities. I never get to drink my coffee when it’s hot. I am learning how to determine what is most important and concentrate on it (even if it takes multiple attempts) until it is finished or “good enough.”
How does this fit with art? Is there room for art to be “good enough?” Creating art, (i.e. recording a song, writing a blog post, working on a new song) is far more important to me than making something perfect. Time spent perfecting one thing is equal to time I am not able to spend creating something new. Spending hours on minor details is rarely time well spent. Artistic integrity is important and art requires hard work. Some amount of spit and polish is necessary to achieve “good enough.” With limited time, creation of something that is “good enough” is far more important than trying to fine tune something or getting stuck which leads to doing nothing at all.
We artist types spend a lot of time pondering and fumbling in our own heads. When pen hits paper, chisel hits stone, and brush hits canvas it is time to churn out what has been stewing. When the brain dump is over, move on. Our current digital system makes it cheap and efficient to share everything we create, this is both good and bad (that is a topic for another day).
The saying goes that the devil is in the details. I don’t really know what that is supposed to mean but for me I think it is true. The details almost always hinder me from finishing. I am learning that to finish a project, I need to begin with the fewest details required. This is the only way I can ever arrive at “good enough.”
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