I’m back in New York after returning from the New Zealand launch of Four-Letter Words, this travel pattern re-qualifying me for my self-proclaimed moniker of New Yorklander (as more than one person in NZ pointed out to me, ‘New Yorklander’ doesn’t just work in combining New Yorker and New Zealander; it also works pretty well in combining New Yorker and Aucklander. Silly me for not noticing).
It was a very full six months or so since the beginning of the Four-Letter Words journey in September/October, when recording started. Now that the album has been released in NZ, it’s time to get the ball rolling in the U.S., which I’m uber-excited about!
In this relatively still point between the recording of the album/NZ release, and the start of getting the music out here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on how I want to relate to this next phase of the journey. I have a tendency (or chronic addiction?!) to turn fun into work; to get so caught up in the results, in making things fit into the way I think they should be, that I lose track of the initial inspiration behind the activity/music in the first place. Well…that sounds dramatic. It’s not meant to, I just see it as a constant learning curve for myself, where I’m discovering how to balance the creativity and mystery of life with my perfectionist and hyper-vigilant streak (just ask my producers, Lee and Rich). It’s just a part of the journey; it’s fun. I think it’s a big part of the journey for a great many of us – one of those balancing acts inherent in being human.
I notice that the richest, most valuable and adventurous parts of my life have been when I’ve been living the question, rather than trying to get somewhere or hold onto the answers. By ‘living the question’, I mean being in a process of discovery, being curious about what can be learned, about which direction I feel drawn to most. I think that giving attention to curiosity, rather than to the pressure of having to produce a particular result, opens us up to the realm of possibilities where surprises and unanticipated directions can arise. In my experience, it’s so much more fun to not know, and to be open, rather than being so focused on the way we think things ‘should be’ that we end up struggling, stressing and running around in meaningless circles. I also find it paradoxically much more productive to be in the process, as opposed to focusing on the endpoint and turning the fun of it into a means to an end.
I’ve been remembering how the most fruitful and enjoyable journeys for me have been full of discovery, curiosity, encountering the unknown, and having my worldview blown away to some degree. That’s what happens in the writing of a song, or in the recording of an album: it’s about inquiring into the mystery of it and letting more be revealed than we could plan to come up with ourselves. It’s about allowing the spark of magic to enter the music the way it wants to, rather than limiting the possibilities by focusing on the endpoint. By being in conversation with the questions we’re open, rather than tense and rigid. That’s where the magic happens. I’ve been taking the past week to re-discover this idea of living the question – the question of ‘what’s waiting to be discovered here?’ or ‘where is the inspiration leading me now?’ – and remind myself of how I want to approach the next leg of the journey.
I’m also aware that it’s been a big week in news, with tornadoes, civil war, a wedding and a funeral. Given that I don’t imagine we’ll have a quiet week of news anytime soon, I think I’ll opt to comment on the lighter side of things while the opportunity presents itself. Being born in the Commonwealth with good old Queen Elizabeth II as my head of state for all my life thus far, but having lived in the U.S. for a while now, I always find it funny to hear someone contrast British and American ways. It’s not a short one (9 minutes), but you’ll need to wait until later in the video for the deliberately dismal attempt to meet the requirements of British high tea etiquette. Here goes: