The reason I make music turns out to be deceptively simple. I only just realised it. It probably applies to all of my creative endeavours, if truth be told.
The thing about life is that you can fool yourself into thinking that well-rehearsed certainties are the safe way to do everything. You can pretend to be an all seeing expert, with your course fully mapped out and claiming to have certainty about your destination and even about the journey you will have on the way to that place. Unfortunately, it isn’t true and cannot be true. Furthermore, it should not be true.
Evolution teaches us something important. What nature does, in the main, is constantly try out new things – new adaptations. Nature loves diversity. Why? Because in diversity is the possibility to see what survives and thrives, versus what clearly won’t flourish. Nature has no pre-calculated plan about this. It just tries things out, to see what happens. All you can guarantee is that nature will change something and see how it goes. It always does and always has. The mechanisms of passing DNA from generation to generation guarantee it. As a strategy, it has sustained life for millennia and continues to guard against annihilation. It’s a successful way of going about things, given the evidence.
Human nature’s big idea seems to be uniformity. We think that if we can regularise, normalise, average, lock down and control it, then it’s going to be a winning formula. Nature laughs at this idea. Nature knows that the context is always changing. If you agree upon and enforce even a previously successful strategy as a universal standard, then going forward it almost certainly will fail and when it does, if you have wiped out all alternatives, you’re doomed. Diversity of approach is a survival strategy and insurance against your current most successful recipe encountering conditions where it utterly fails. This is why cloning didn’t appear in the real world as a widespread survival tactic. It’s too fragile, when conditions change and what was once an advantage becomes a disadvantage.
How does this all apply to the world of intellectual ideas, careers, creativity and navigating one’s path through life and so on? Well, it means that if you aren’t trying something new, you’re probably not giving yourself the opportunity to discover what works really well for you. If you insist on following the orthodoxies, even if they are not favouring your survival, then you are giving up on one of the most potent tools available to humanity. Trying something new is our salvation.
Which brings me to the reason I make music (and art): I make music to see (and hear) what happens. That’s all there is to it.
OK, so my music might turn out terrible, with no audience and no possibility of making a living at it, but it’s just as likely to cause other outcomes, some (or most) of which might not be foreseeable. The point is that all art is, to some extent, a total experiment in existence. You make it, you put it out there and you see what happens. It could survive and thrive, or it could teach you other lessons and send you back to the studio to try again, with something slightly (or radically) different this time.
Whatever happens, it’s preferable to stasis, even if that feels comfortable and it’s definitely preferable to an unsatisfactory situation, which is sucking all the life and energy out of you – an organism that is genetically programmed to survive and strive.
So there you have it. That’s a reason enough to try something new in your life. Just to see what happens. Maybe nothing, maybe nothing good, but equally, maybe something fantastic will come of it. You just never know. You can’t pre-ordain the result, so quit worrying about that. This is not a plan, it’s an experiment. If you try something new and it doesn’t yield a positive result, try something else. Forget about other people’s tried and tested routes to success. They won’t work for you. Your context is different. You’re going to have to find your own route. The first step, of course, is to take a step. Standing still definitely won’t get you there.
You might have a goal in mind, but your experiments have a way of presenting you with other possible goals and destinations, some of which might be much better than the original goal you had in mind. Are you flexible enough to adapt to going somewhere other than where you wanted to go in the first place? Would you go there, if it could be shown to you that it’s a better destination? We all think that money and a comfortable life are what we want, but sometimes what we need more than that is the feeling that we’re making a difference, doing something important, or at least trying things out, where they had never been done before. Fulfilment is a funny thing, when it comes right down to it.
I encourage you to try new things. Go outside of your comfort zone and experiment with new ways of doing, knowing, being, seeing and making. It’s the only way anything can ever get better.
Footnote: Just as I went to load this piece into WordPress, I discovered that the New Post editing page had completely changed. Talk about proving my point! Unfortunately, one of the features I loved, which was choosing tags from the most popular tags in a tag cloud, no longer exists. I can’t see which of my tags was the most popular anymore. I wonder how that adaptation will pan out.