Unnecessary musical instruments.
I’m writing you from the sunny window of a 242-year-old public library in 30-degree Connecticut. My partner and I left California for a cross country adventure on January 2nd, and now we’re here to spend time with family for a while. But before embarking, we were on a tight schedule to prep our home for subletters. There's nothing like a hard deadline to get a space in tip-top shape. Or at least good enough shape.
Being the proprietor of good ol' New Order, one might think I didn’t have much to clear out. And granted, there were some areas I didn’t have to worry about: my slow-and-steady quest for a minimalist life had significantly reduced my amount of paper a year prior. All that remained on that front was:
1) my one filing crate of papers (which, among other things, includes incoming current-year pay stubs, filed contracts and copyrights that I like to keep in paper form, and a drop area for new memorabilia items);
2) older tax returns that I have yet to digitize;
3) a current action-oriented pile of paper which I brought with me on the journey -- a few bills to be paid, some medical records to scan into Evernote, etc.
But there were still areas that needed attention, and I discovered that some of them were directly related to being a creative person.
One prominent area was ‘Past Work’. Depending on an artist’s medium, this can take up a little space or a lot of space. (Visual artists with large bodies of work, I tip my hat to you. Storage can be a real doozy.) My archive of past work includes one large box of my own visual art (a newer hobby, so it's not overtaking my space yet). And the rest is mostly DVDs — lots and lots of DVDs. What’s on them? Every acting job I've done since the late 1990s, every TV episode my songs have appeared in, every voiceover gig, old reels, promo videos, backup recordings of all the music I've written or am I’m currently writing, and perhaps most importantly: all of the huge files for the music I’ve finished and released as albums, which may need to be accessed for future versions or licensing. And this is to say nothing of the pile of spiral notebooks wherein I actually wrote those songs.
All those DVDs take up two medium-sized plastic bins. Could I digitize all of it? Sure. But hard drives take up space too, and I imagine I will always want a hard backup in addition to a cloud backup. So, it kind of is what it is. Creative folks will always need some space to store their archived work. (Any conflicting thoughts or new ideas on this? Please hit reply and let me know.)
What does this mean? Well, one thing it means is that we can let ourselves off the hook a bit if we’re feeling like we can’t seem to get rid of things related to our creative work. Some stuff stays, period. However, I realized that I hadn’t gone through the DVDs in a while, and there was definitely stuff that could go. (There always is.) Among other non-gems, I trashed a copy of a crappy student film that no one ever needs to see again and took the opportunity to better pack and re-label everything, leaving it as compact and easily accessible as could be. (Small steps, they matter.)
Another creative area I came face-to-face with: the tools I use to make my art. I never thought I had too many instruments, but this opportunity to downsize allowed me to get real with the fact that I owned at least three music-making machines that could stand to find a new home. One of those instruments was a vintage Yamaha synth — and it became a great example of how inner clutter can secretly mess with us on a daily basis.
I got a good deal on this used synth a few years ago. Let’s call her Jeri, shall we? I wanted so badly to be BFFs with Jeri. And look, we had a few good times... I tried out her different sounds, made lists of the ones I liked, even recorded a few song ideas. But long story short, I didn't have time (or perhaps make time) for Jeri. I'm not a "gear head" and I didn't know how to work 80% of the knobs. Was I capable of learning? Sure. But I had other things on my plate that came first, for better or worse. And meanwhile, Jeri was taking up prime real estate in my bedroom / music sanctuary. Yes, I'd placed her there on purpose to make her easier to use. But we just didn't completely click. So more often than not, she served to remind me what I wasn't doing with her more than what I was. That was eating away at me. My subconscious started up with the stories... "you're not a good enough musician, you're not devoting enough time, you're not smart enough to play the synth, you're not a natural...." Inner clutter so incessant that I'd forgotten I had a choice in the matter.
So I finally put us both out of our misery. I sold Jeri. She's gone. And I don't miss her. I'm free. And probably so is she! Off with a new suitor who can't wait to treat her right. My synth times shall come again one day... but for now, I'll take that freedom with a side of cash, please. I sold three instruments total, and made $420! And that money was mighty handy on the trip east, let me tell ya.
(Psst: When you're actually going to follow through on selling, and you give yourself a hard deadline, and your stuff's actually worth something, then I'm obviously all for it.)
Here's another shot from the cross country drive. (A very serious attempt at channeling The King at Sun Studio, Memphis.) If you’ve never been out on the open road, GO GO GO. We went, we saw, and we listened to sooo many podcasts. We also had such meaningful conversations with strangers we’ll probably never see again! We met a photographer from Chicago who now runs a Native American artifact gallery in Santa Fe; a sweet-as-pie hotel concierge in Texas who wishes she could move back to Florida; and a Starbucks barista in Little Rock who is about to quit her job to follow her dreams of being a yoga instructor while RV-traveling with her husband. Wishing them all so well... and you too..
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