Many of us struggle with the idea that we’re adding to the noise when we share our thoughts and feelings about the state of the world. We often pull back because we feel there are more qualified people to say what we think needs to be said. And while there are people more qualified in some ways to do some of the things, we are the only ones who can say it exactly as we can say it. And that makes us super qualified to say a lot of the things.
And also, the people who don’t care about whether they’re qualified at all are sure out there spouting it out. Our considered, measured and passionate ideas are much needed by some. If nothing else than as a reminder that our atmosphere is not completely made up of the hot air of ignorant humans.
You’ve heard it a million times by now, right? The way you say your truth is the exact way someone out there needs to hear it. (Marie Forleo just said it today on the current episode of MarieTV.)
I’ve got a major gripe with the old refrain: “It’s been done.” This is something said by humorless people who are afraid to create anything. Because beneath the stinging surface it sure does let one off the hook. If it’s all been done we can just roll around in the mud of our own despondency. Doesn’t that sound pleasant? When I get a butterfly in my stomach because someone says “it’s been done” I remind myself: hey, so many people have had eyes before me, but I’m sure glad I have eyes, too, regardless of how derivative that might seem. Boom. Done.
So we kind of have to employ our inner bitch to get through some of this. Yes, there is a lot of noise, yes a lot of things have been done, but I’m going to trust myself and my desire to create more than I’m going to listen to those disembodied voices (most in my own head, by the way) saying I’m unworthy, why bother, there’s already too much noise.
Here I am in this point in time. Here you are in this point in time. Here we all are now. Oh, Michael Hutchence — popping into my head with the lyrics to INXS’ “Need You Tonight”: “All you got is this moment / Twenty-first century’s yesterday / You can care all you want / Everybody does, yeah, that's OK.”
While I’m not going to ask you to slide over here and give me a moment, and I’m not sure if your moves are “so raw,” but I do have to let you know, you’re one of my kind. And if there is something about you that makes me sweat it is that you are out there in the world doing it. Or in your cave doing it (that’s where I like to do it). Keep at it.
Recently I fell in love with Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s joint album, Lotta Sea Lice. The title alone should tell you they’re not taking themselves too seriously. They recorded the album in eight days spread over fifteen months while they had enough time to be in the same place at once (Kurt's from Philly, Courtney's from Melbourne and they both tour extensively). It is precisely that they gave themselves room to breathe on this album and did not force perfection before creating it that is what’s so great about it. It is a breath of fresh, sometimes-goofy air and tender, with an expected vein of blue mold running through side B: The goofiest song on the album is called “Blue Cheese,” which Kurt Vile wrote most of when he was a teenager.
“BLUE CHEESE!” an audience member yells when we’re watching Courtney and Kurt play at The Moore Theater in Seattle (with The Sea Lice, an all-star band including Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag’s Janet Weiss on drums).
“Alright,” Kurt says. “Let’s get this over with.”
I so feel his pain. In the sense of, like, I made this thing, it’s only OK, but it’s out in the world now. But there is something so charming and free about the song, because it was perhaps flippantly written, that it allows all of us listening to let out a big sigh. Let our shoulders drop. Because for a few minutes we’re not scribbling out ways to be better or more worthy in our heads or erecting justifications for making any noise at all in the world. It is of value. The fact that we’re even considering whether what we have to say is of value at all, in my opinion, proves it is. Not that we have to prove it. But hey, welcome to my spiral of brain activity. I’m glad I’ve got one, whether or not it’s obsessing (which has, oh, my baby, been done and done and done and done and done).
A moment of respite from our brain machinations during the wildly goofy "Blue Cheese" makes the song something pretty special, however much Kurt, the creator of it, feels otherwise. You know -- it's a metaphor for what we're talking about here. (Audience breathes sigh of relief thanks to the quirky singularity of a song while artist berates self for said song being an imperfect creation.)
Also, how much do I love this line (from their song “Continental Breakfast”): “I walk like a bruised ego along shorefront property un-owned to me / But I'm feelin' inferior on the interior don't ya see.”
I think that ties it up pretty nicely. See, they are literally talking about feeling small. I feel like that’s always a good place to start. If you’re afraid of making noise, write about that to start. I promise you this gal right here (and so many artists we love) will be able to relate big time.
Here's the official video for one of the singles off Lotta Sea Lice. And, like Courtney, I do cherish our intercontinental friendships and would love to talk it over continental breakfast with you. "Somewhere on this sphere, around here."
(By the way: "Kurt and Courtney have partnered with Plus 1 so that $1 from every ticket goes to support the ACLU and their work defending and protecting our individual rights and liberties." Daw, I love these guys!)
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.