There is a gene in me that compels me to do what I do.
Or maybe it’s a disease. A sickness I’ve carried from the moment of birth. I often think I might be better off with a transorbital lobotomy, lumbering vacantly toward an empty room.
I don’t know why I’m this way. Could probably trace it to my mother. I grew up listening to her play Chopin and Beethoven in our living room on a funky console piano.
It sounded like a Steinway to me.
Or there’s my Uncle Ed, who loaned me his baritone uke when I was eight years old. He saw my eyes get big when he started playing, and for reasons I’ll never know, handed it to me, wearing that wise-acre grin of his, and said, "Keep it for awhile, kiddo."
Next thing I knew, I was blasting away on those nylon strings, writing songs. But then I guess I’d always been writing them. When I was very young I used to sing myself to sleep every night, rolling my head from side to side in rhythm to the tune I’d made up.
Yes, I was a strange kid.
But then we’re all strange, aren’t we? Those of us who attempt to create. We spend so much time in our own heads that the people around us, the people we love, start to feel neglected.
We live in messy rooms, drive dirty cars and can’t stop humming that new melody we’ve come up with — working it, revising it, sometimes forgetting it. We figure out character flaws and plot turns while we’re supposed to be concentrating on the road. We sketch doodles on place mats as we wait for our french fries. We snap photographs of our children, experimenting with angles, then upload them into an electronic box to play with the colors and the grain and the contrast.
I’ve had this disease — this desire to create — for as long as I can remember. And I can’t control it. Can barely manage to channel it into one specific task. When I’m writing, I want to be making music. When I’m playing guitar, I want to be editing video. When I’m editing video, I’m thinking about the book I should be working on.
But then it all comes together somehow in my brain — the melody, the images, the words — and after a long, difficult slog, a book is born. A song is written. A video completed.
But I often wonder what it is that compels me to do these things. What is it in my DNA that forces me to pick up a pen or play a piano or draw a picture? And when I was first starting out, what gave me the audacity to believe that I’d ever be any good at it?
Or does that really matter?
Gift or curse, this desire is something I’ve had to learn to live with. And the most painful thing about it is that most of my attempts to be creative actually fail. I’m never completely satisfied with my efforts.
But then maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s only the pursuit that counts.
And I always enjoy the pursuit. Always.
Even when it hurts.