How Do I Know If I’m Good?

I wrote a new song yesterday. That’s good news, I think, because I hadn’t been able to write anything new – songs, poems, stories, essays, bathroom stall graffiti – for a really long time and so I spent like 3 or 4 hours in the office/library/room where we hang the chin up bar writing and recording this song and then fucking around with it forever because the guitar part sounded weird and I have no good reason for spending that much time making minute adjustments to this guitar track, trying to make it sound less marshmallowy, when the only reason I recorded it was really just so I wouldn’t forget how to play the song.

So, like I do, I’ve been listening to this song on repeat so I can decide what changes I’m gonna wanna make to it when I go back and work on it some more. I could definitely use a second opinion. I’m not short on people who could help me out with this. Many of my friends are musicians in some capacity; some of them do it for a living, some of them do it for kicks, some are trying to get to the former from the latter, but they’re all good at least some of the time. But I rarely share my tunes with anyone anymore. I never did it a lot to begin with. I’m super bashful about my stuff because, even after ~150 songs written, I have no idea if any of it is any good.

The post-adolescent-dude-with-acoustic-guitar scene in my city is both thriving and awful. I fully own my snobbery. I feel entitled to it, I just do. Most of these dudes write garbage. I mean, I find a lot of it uninventive, as if they hammered something out and thought, This is what a song sounds like. Lots of songs sound like this song I just wrote, so I must be doing it right. (For the record, I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong way to create anything, technically, but there are plenty of ways to create shit that sucks.) Regarding music, I like things that are challenging more than I like things that are pleasant. But many of the local musicians I’ve learned to avoid when possible perform either frequently or with a great deal of confidence…or both sometimes, I guess. They don’t think that they suck. I do. I tend to think men, on the whole, are less intelligent than women. I have an argument for this, but I’ll save it ’cause it’s tangential. But these dudes get to me sometimes.

When I’m hypomanic, I feel creative and productive. I have more confidence in what I make and more confidence in what I feel I’m capable of making. This phenomenon is pretty standard for most of us. But hypomania can be fleeting, so the brilliant thing I did on Monday might be the distressingly terrible thing I did by Thursday. I like to let stuff ferment a little, but that can be a trap if I’m at the mercy of mood fluctuations, and I really, really, have a hard time distinguishing my hypomanic bravado from my ability to tell what’s good and what’s bad.

My poor band. My poor, poor band. Hey guys! I wrote a new song! Oh really? Can we hear it? No. God, no. No. Sorry. Just. Maybe gimme a little time. Never mind, it’s crap. Let’s just play something else. I’M TOTALLY GOING PLACES LIKE THIS.

Obviously, when I’m depressed, I think everything I do is not just bad, but repeated exercises in pointlessness ’cause we’re all gonna die anyway, and I suck, and I don’t wanna be remembered as that lady who tried really hard but sucked anyway, so why bother? Right??

Right now, I feel fine. I had a really good MMA class last night and I’m sore, but pumped ’cause yesterday we got to shove each other a lot and that’s always good for the spirit. I also bought my very first pair of boxing gloves yesterday which will become objects of intense sentimentality until the day I die because punching shit is really fucking fun and I wanna remember those times I had a bunch of fucking fun. So, Ok. Fine. I feel pretty good today. Also, the sun’s out. That’s neat. So far, my little song is in safe territory. For now.

I have 90 minute commute via public transit today, so I’m gonna listen to that new song on repeat the whole way (mostly, gotta get in some Kurt Vile today, I just do). Sometimes I’ll think it’s worth working on more. Sometimes I’ll talk myself into thinking that an orchestra of the constipated elderly struggling to to have a bowel movement is the kinder choice regarding what I funnel into my ears. Seriously. I don’t know if I’m good at this. When people tell me I’m good, I distrust them. When people don’t tell me anything, I goad them until they reassure me and then I distrust them for doing it. Good, Laura.

So I had planned to write more about this problem, but if I don’t shake a leg, I’m gonna be late for something for the second time this week. I might get back to this topic later, but, for those of you who do creative things of any kind and then share your work with other people: How do you know you’re not terrible? How do you know if you’re good? How can I know if I’m good? I could start by trusting myself a little bit more and comparing myself to my peerless idols a little less. That’s a start, right? I hate that I’ve tied my talents too firmly to my moods. I don’t think that’s fair. What do you think? Compliment me at your peril.

-LB

Tagged: art, bipolar disorder, creativity, depression, gender, hypomania, jealousy, MMA, music, self-effacement, self-esteem

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