The effects master and the ineffective whiner

Dan Dan revolution

Dan Dan revolution

So I didn’t make my daily blog entry yesterday. And I woke up tired because I drank more than I expected, and slept less than I expected, and spent my non-drinking and non-sleeping hours dithering around being wantonly, gluttonously unproductive. So of course not only do I feel tired and dull at the edges, but I also feel like a failure.

This is also to be expected. “Unproductive” is all but a nasty curse word in our culture. I can rationalize, because my brain hasn’t quite sapped me of the power to make up excuses for myself. I attended a party and had a fun time with funny company. I returned home in a happy, coherent state, with enough energy to hang out with my boyfriend, play with the cat, and watch bad TV before passing out. These are all things that a healthy person would want, right? Why feel disappointed?

I think of writing the way some people think about exercise. Some people truly crave and adore exercise. They get up early to jog or do sun salutations. They go directly to the gym after work. They plan their schedules to include exercise time, instead of going through a routine where one hopes to squeeze in some a few laps at the community pool. Bless their hearts, I might say, if I was an old-world Southern belle.

But most people have a much more volatile relationship with exercise. When things between exercise and us are going well, we swear by it. Exercise helps you sleep better! You have better sex! You probably even eat better when exercise is part of your daily diet. But then things come up to sidetrack our attention to exercise. It always starts out pretty innocuously. You have a late meeting and an even later meeting with the dive bar next door, and you don’t have time to exercise. Little by little, exercise happens less frequently. At first, you’re embarrassed by how distracted you’ve been. But as lack of exercise becomes your habit, you switch your chagrin for quiet tolerance. And it never helps that exercise can be such a bitch! She whips you around like raw pizza dough, causes you to sweat, sometimes makes you feel as if you’ll vomit in her presence.  Then after the battle of wills has been exhausted, you and exercise call it off, at least until you begin to miss her.

That’s the way I feel about writing. But there’s no need to clobber you to death with the analogy. All you need to know is that I’m at a tenuous stage in my relationship with writing, having played every junior high game with it since probably junior high. But I refuse to have that kind of relationship with people anymore, and that should be the same precedent for my interaction with my chosen form of creativity. I started off the day ready to fall back on that all-or-nothing approach that people with new yoga studio memberships often adopt. But that attitude won’t help me write, at least not when other events arise, and then I proceed in the same fatalistic pattern I’ve always followed. That’s so boring it’s not even funny. So instead, I attempt to behave maturely in this relationship. I accept that I screwed up. These sort of things happen. Just don’t let them happen all the time.

When I compare my work ethic to Dan Deacon’s, it’s nearly a misnomer to use the phrase “work ethic.” Deacon went to the prestigious Conservatory of Music school in Purchase, NY. His past works have included experiments with sine wave generators as well as a toy chest of other noise-making machines. Deacon’s live shows implore the audience to take an active role in their concert attendance, which often involves a whole lot of dancing and playing off of the unexpected tweaks in Deacon’s effects manipulations. He is currently on tour with a band of traditional instrumentalists, driving across the country in an eco-friendly van powered by recycled vegetable oil, which Deacon asks the participants of his performances to donate. NPR broadcasted an interview conducted with Deacon in honor of Earth Day yesterday.

Today, I sent a bunch of emails and almost finished typing the minutes from the afternoon board meeting today. Also, a whole lot of fretting over my lapse. I think Deacon’s level of productivity wins. But I won’t fall victim to despair. I will keep writing these musical musings regardless of pay, grade, or readership numbers. And I will save the oily contents of my stir-fry experiments for when Dan Deacon comes to town.

Dan Deacon will play at the Wonder Ballroom on Friday, April 24. Teeth Mountain and Future Islands will also play.

  • Dan Deacon ~ Bromst ~ Carpark

Padding Ghost


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