I promise not to make any more excuses about not updating my blog more frequently. It must be boring to read and the fact of the matter is, it is I who makes the choices about when to update my blog or not and I do so in full knowledge of when I last posted. Instead I will shift focus slightly and reflect on why I haven’t posted an update to my blog during November. I have been trying to write a post, a couple of them in fact. At the risk of the stating the obvious, I have failed to do so. (This post is a new idea. Thankfully I haven’t been *trying* to write about not being able to write a blog post, the irony of that state of affairs at the point of actually writing the post would be almost painful.) I wanted to write a blog post to introduce the second of the two structuring themes I planned to introduce to my blog: my passion for listening to music. Along with what I am wearing, the kind of music I am listening to is intimately linked with where my head is at any given time.
So, I had motivation to write a post and a topic I wanted to write about. What I didn’t fully understand was that there was a(nother) self imposed constraint that later got in the way. Having finished my MA I want to feel I can still write and approach a subject in an intellectual way. I had decided, then, that my posts should be suitably intellectual (whatever that means). This proved problematic as the suitably intellectual approaches I pursued lessened my motivation to actually write. For one thing, I think I was trying to emulate a style that isn’t mine in order to be more ‘intellectual’. For another thing, I find being intellectual and trying to pose the right questions boring. I found this when doing my MA and I realised I was never going to be a good analytical philosopher. I find the sorts of questions analytical philosophers are supposed to spend hours answering incredibly uninspiring.
Well then, let me share what it is I want to write about instead of what I think I should write about. I’ll return to the other thoughts later; there is some merit in them, but I am not ready to write about them quite yet.
Last Saturday I made a playlist. I make one every few months and the last time I did it was in August and saw me through finishing my MA. It begins with the aptly titled ‘Losing Sleep’ by Edwyn Collins. There are usually one or two tracks that I happen to hear and they call to me. I can’t get them out of my head so I capture them in a playlist which suggest itself around them. (Yes, the beginnings of most things in my life are as random as that. I have come to the conclusion that most things people end up doing start off that randomly, but we rarely see that bit of the decision making process.) Creating a playlist is an entirely intuitive and largely emotional task. I delight in choosing the right album or playlist for my mood and I can tell within a few bars of the first track whether a particular album is right for any given time. I don’t rationalise it at all, I just go on instinct. The right track or album feels immensely comforting even if it is a sad song. Like with the clothes, it finally occurred to me at some point that the kind of music I am instinctively choosing to listen to is probably a useful insight to what is going on in my head.
December 2010 playlist (Go on, take a listen as you read the rest, I have been listening to it on repeat as I write the post. Except I have the explicit version of Gold Digger by Kanye West as it is much better, but considerably more offensive.)
My two starting tracks were ‘One Life Stand’ by Hot Chip and ‘Show Me the Light’ by Mystery Jets. I kept hearing both on 6 music as I was struggling to wake up and had to sit and do some searching to find out what these fragments of tracks stuck in my head were. I knew I wanted to make a playlist but had no idea what the other songs should be so I cruised my music library and picked out a few others. Some of these felt like misses and some like hits. At this point I started wondering what the criteria that I was selecting by were, what was it that was guiding me? I got waylaid by other stuff and gave up on the playlist temporarily. I went back to it last Saturday, having realised that one of the criteria was that all the tracks had to have a strong bass line. As I went back through my music I had a lot more success finding tracks that fitted. All the tracks on it speak to me in a very physical way and eventually it occurred to me that the strong bass lines have a lot to do with that. The other thing about them is that they all have a pretty sultry feel about them (with the exception of the last track which has a strong rhythm but not particularly a bass line and is not all that sultry, I just find it very moving). As soon as I started playing the playlist, even in its very fledgling form, I was singing along and moving around to the rhythm. Apparently that is what I wanted out of it – a set of tracks that I would find it very difficult not to engage with in a very physical and tangible way.
At this point in my thinking I started to realise just how much I wanted a break from trying to be intellectual, especially as I hadn’t quite figured out what trying to be intellectual even means to me. I have encountered lack of motivation as a result of trying to pursue goals I think I should pursue rather than goals I want to pursue countless times in my adult life and I am just now starting to learn to work with myself and focus my energies more on the things I want to do in my own time. Further, if I don’t have a concrete sense of what the value of a particular approach is I find it very difficult to mobilise myself towards following it. Once I had got that straight in my head I found myself renewing my efforts to write the next blog post with a new playlist on in the background and a bit more space in my head. If I try and do stuff I am interested in life gets a lot easier … who knew?!