I returned from the BASCA Monnow Valley writing retreat on Sunday night, about 12 hours before I was scheduled to do, but it was the right thing to do to slip away earlier than planned. My thought last year was that it would be the last one that I would do should realistically have been the one that I ought to have stuck to. Like last year my contribution as a writer was somewhat tangential and I spent most of it in a production capacity. The first twenty four hours ended up being written off after I found that I couldn’t really do anything with the combination of an elderly Romanian Jazz Piano Diva and a Polish ambient techno-metal/odd time signature composer (yes, really. Very challenging when they are the matches and the dynamite and you’re the oxygen. The next two rotations brought about two good tracks, with intelligent lyrics (Without You and Heroes) but while my storytelling and production contribution was valuable (approx. 50-60% in each case), my lyrical contribution was down in the mid to low 20%’s.
Which in itself would be fine had it been a “Production Retreat”. But it wasn’t. What I hoped would happen (capitalising on the energy of the other participants to capture some of that passion and energy for writing and creativity again that I could leverage for KOAS) didn’t really come to pass.
Our mentor was her usual irrepressible self (wouldnt have her any other way) with fabulous war stories and brought along another great professional writer to impart some wisdom and encouragement. Funnily enough, the road that he’s walked down to find himself where he is now is looking very similar to the one that I’m on. Lovely fella, experienced, wise and a great sharer of this recieved wisdom.
So…. (before I digress any further) combining that level of reduced participation with the lack of momentum since returning from the US on the KOAS project, it started to get quite mentally cloudy for a while. The thought did cross my mind as to whether the fire, the passion for writing songs had gone out altogether – and at some point, I would need to stop trying to light a fire that had limited fuel and was never going to catch and concentrate on going back into the day job and just accepting that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew and that the project wasn’t going to be realised.
After all, I did say nearly four months ago that I wasn’t going to get a better chance to do this, that it meant a lot and that I should seize the opportunity while I had the money and health to do so.
Well, hand on heart, I cant say that I have seized the day. A lot of examination led me to rationalise that because most of the time I wrote over the last five years for catharsis, that because I have a different emotional attitude these days (dont ask) that maybe there are no more demons to be slain and no more catharsis is necessary. So, ergo, nothing really left to write about and where the older material is concerned, what is done is done and thats that, going back and revisiting it and raking it over isn’t really a good idea, on reflection.
36 hours later and not a huge amount has changed; there still doesn’t appear to be any real fire and I cant deny that I appear to be at a bit of a crossroads.
Do I stop writing full stop and just accept it that the whole thing of it was not so much the realisation of the goal but the journey to try and get there…?
Or do I try a different alternative… namely still have a goal of writing/producing/playing an album’s worth of material (meh, maybe even two, who knows), but dropping an awful lot of the material that while I am proud of it, by the same token is just too damned complicated, just too damned time consuming, energy sapping and to be frank, just too damned dark. Yes, I did just say that. So stuff like Let It Go, Stars, Never Be Mine, Stay, Manhattan Lullaby and others may well end up being canned and replaced by FOMO, Castles In The Sky, Doesnt Matter Now and others.
And writing different stuff instead that isn’t primarily for therapy. Who knows, maybe even starting with the music first and then seeing where that leads….?
What I do know is that if I continue to do nothing and stay stuck in this torpor of overthinking, thats exactly what will happen; Nothing. And that isn’t good.
So. KOAS and No Expectations and London Road may end up getting either put on ice or binned altogether or they may end up being completely different to what I planned them to be six months ago. At the moment, the direction hasn’t really clearly formed. I’m allowing myself no later than the start of August to make a clear decision one way or the other. And then to start acting on it.
Time will tell, I guess.