On those days when you pick up your guitar and it doesn’t feel like a part of you, and the music doesn’t come out and won’t come out, you can find yourself thinking, “This is not my guitar! These are not my beautiful strings! What happened to my exciting and excellent amp tone? These are not my fingers! Who stole all my good equipment and replaced it with identical looking, but wholly alien, substitutes?”
Of course, all the gear remains the same. What has changed is you – your mind. You just can’t play a note to save yourself. When you try to play, it feels wrong, sounds dissatisfying and you get no pleasure from it. And so, the struggle, that is art, begins anew.
As a painter, I know this happens to painters as well. There are days when, whatever you attempt to commit to canvas, it just isn’t right. It feels amateurish and stupid. You want to scrape all the paint off and start again. Some days, you just cannot find your artistic form. It’s as if you’ve never held a brush or mixed paint before. You feel lost, ashamed and inadequate, when confronting your own art. You might have felt you had been making some genuine progress, up until this point. Now, you survey your own work and it causes you feelings of dread.
I’m willing to bet this sort of thing probably happens to all sorts of artists, when they address their tools and media, on bad days. I think it’s just part and parcel of being an artist. There are days when you feel you totally suck at it.
The truth is that the art and the music that comes out, comes out of you. It’s all about expressing what’s inside you. You might not even understand that or be consciously aware of how it happens, but rest assured that the art that comes out of you is coming from some deep and mysterious part of your brain and it does express your unique character, creativity, imagination and emotions, even if obliquely. On the days when you just have nothing to give, don’t panic. That happens to everyone. Look forward to the days when it effortlessly flows from you and through you.
Music, and indeed all art, is communication and nobody has something to say, all of the time (unless they have some strange defect in their mind). Sometimes you tell jokes, sometimes it’s light hearted banter, at other times you debate serious points, and at others, you deliver your heartfelt manifesto. As an artist or musician, you speak when you have something to say, through your media or your instrument and your composition. When you have something to say, you will find that you can speak again, through your art. Be patient.
The reward, of course, is that when you find your most articulate artistic voice again, the satisfaction you gain, from letting the art express itself, is immense. There are few feelings like it. You almost always find you take an incremental leap forward, after a dry spell. The most important thing is not to become discouraged and give up. All those horrible feelings of artistic inadequacy are worth enduring, for the satisfaction of feeling mastery, which will eventually come.
So, I’m afraid this is your guitar. Stick with it.