“In the place where I have what it takes” (Elliot Smith)

So this is the waiting room.


The studio, condensed down to the immediate and the current. Future work cannot be considered here. Past work is in a different dimension.

It is a nest, undeniably. For which I am teased. This afternoon is a weird one. I sit in the chair isolated from everything outside the circle by the use of laptop, headphones and sketchbook. I am turned away from the room (husband, ironing pile, unopened mail). An artificial isolation perhaps, looking out into the brown garden, but necessary.

The song in my headphones and head is an appropriate choice: the lyrics stick:

It’s ok, it’s all right, nothing’s wrong

Tell Mr Man with impossible plans

Just to leave me alone

In the place where I make no mistakes

In the place where I have what it takes

A verse taken out of the context of Elliot Smith’s “Waltz #2”, but a sentiment that cuts to the bone today.

I have had three amazingly brilliant music studio days, doing my own work and supporting other people’s. I have learned things… mostly about myself. I’ve been told I’m good at something. I have good pitch apparently. In that little booth with the headphones on, I have what it takes. No one told me I was good at this before, not really. I’ve been complimented on my voice – it’s lovely to be told nice things about your performance – but this practical application of a skill I didn’t have a clue I had, or was even a thing… it’s had an effect on me. I’m accurate, therefore quick, therefore expensive studio time is saved. I’m useful. This might to others seem to be a small thing, but today I retreat to think about it all.

I am at the very beginning stages of trying to construct a body of musical work that is just me. That is very difficult. I’m having trouble focussing. It’s like knitting smoke. I’m distracted by the skills/talent/experience of others and forget myself… so it is taking a while to figure out what it is that I want. I value others’ musical experience and knowledge over my own, definitely. I have to remind myself that I am of value, and that my opinions, ideas and different skill set have worth. I have something unique to offer other people’s ears. My ear to brain transport system is slow, synapses are on slow-burn, not quick-fire. What takes someone with musical training five minutes can take me five weeks.

I suppose yesterday’s revelation of a gift/skill came as a shock. yet again I review myself. I retreat to my armchair studio, with my back to the world while I try to make sense of it… “in the place where I make no mistakes, in the place where I have what it takes…”

…troubling… art is all about making mistakes and being open to what is revealed. Discovering you might have what it takes in a new arena is terrifying, so I retreat to the safe place.

Maybe that is what “studio” is as an etherial hard-to-pin-down concept? The place to retreat to and venture out from? Whether that is the space in your head, protected by headphones and sketchbook, or the physical space with walls and a door and window that I’m waiting for at the moment is perhaps not as relevant as I think?

I know that if I am to create this piece/collection/body of music that is completely an expression of me, then I’m going to make lots of mistakes, and make lots of false starts. How I view my internal/external “studio” could be crucial to my mental health.

When I started writing this as scribbling in my sketch book I didn’t know if it was going to stay in the pages or get published on the blog (some posts are transcribed from my sketchbook, some are directly typed here).

It is a truth – my truth – that I waver between the capable and incapable; the novice and the accomplished; the bucket of self-doubt and the egotist; the ugly, fat woman and the beautiful, desirable woman. In my lucid moments I know that this probably applies to most people, most women, most artists.

Some days I can strut out and do my stuff.

Some days I curl up, unable to cope with the external.

Tomorrow is a different world.

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