“That’s the beauty of music and art is that there’s no right or wrong. Whichever way you paint the picture, you’re still painting the picture…” – Jonathan Chandler, vocalist – Amos the Transparent
I was speaking with some of the members of Amos the Transparent, an up-and-coming indie rock act (aren’t they all) out of Ontario, but since they’re not really the point here, I’ll stop the bio. Our conversation turned to the subject of creativity and the beauty of art in general when one of the guys said the line above. It’s something that I agree completely with, yet I often find myself responding in the opposite way to it.
“That’s not good enough!” That’s the common mantra in my head at most things I write. I can nod my head in an “Amen, sister!” sort of way when someone speaks a beautiful statement of “there is no right or wrong.” Then in a solitary confinement of my own making–surrounded by the smell of fresh coffee, the glow of my MacBook and the sounds of William Fitzsimmons–I become judge and jury to my own creative works, generally delivering a death sentence to each and every one of them.
We’re all our own worst critics. I hear that from countless artists I interview and I know the dozens of unfinished projects, essays, books and articles of my own speak to the same fact. Precious few walk this earth who can care less about the interior voices, who feel free to display their paintings or writings or speeches to the greater public without fear. The last time I unveiled something with a wide smile and brimming confidence probably coincided with my fifth birthday. Since then, it’s been a downhill slope of fear and frustration.
I go back to that quote however and love the way that Jonathan said it. Part of the beauty of art lies inside that freedom from the confines of what’s right or wrong, in or out. If I fail to find the freedom of that, then I lose the beauty of it–at least if the above statement is true. In other words, when I am lost in a pursuit of perfection and driving myself mad with an inability to “get it right,” I’m losing the beauty of what it is in the first place.
In the endless struggle to create beauty, I’m missing the beauty in front of me.
I’d love to be free again, or at the very least, to learn to be a bit more free. Of course, I want to work hard, develop my craft, hone my sentences and relentlessly edit. But often I simply shut the treasure chest and shove it back under the bed deeming all things unworthy of release–losing the beauty in the process.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.