Friday morning I was groggily opening the Washington Post Weekend section and flipping though the music articles. I noticed a story about a Baltimore band I’ve recently been listening to, Lower Dens.
I was intrigued by the tale of a woman who had pursued her art as a folk singer-songwriter and come to realize it wasn’t working, and she needed to let it go. As someone who has struggled , given up, launched again, been bitterly disappointed, given up, then launched again so many times in my art-life, I really felt for her. It’s a painful place to be.
But read on: Jana Hunter left her folkie touring behind, yet still tinkered with music. After a few experimental collaborations she formed Lower Dens. Hunter says:
“It was the first time that I had a band of my own, and [I] discovered that after putting some work into the beat writing, that I really enjoyed playing music, whereas before I had not ever enjoyed touring at all,” says the Texas-born Hunter, 32. “And, yeah, these guys, we work well together. . . . I decided that I would like to write more songs if they’d be willing to continue playing with me.”
I’m noticing that Hunter went from a solo career to a collaborative one. As an introvert who has often been confounded by how much solitude is too much, I’m having a bit of renaissance in this area myself. Imagine a team of creatives with a similar passion for certain goals, who’s skills complement each others’, working toward something bigger and more impactful that anything I could create alone. I had a job interview this week, the first in many years, if ever, where such a team felt possible.
But the very best treat of this significant article for me is Jana Hunter’s final quote:
It’s all about being “shamelessly self-confident,” Hunter says, “just kind of looking into the art of your existence and accepting that in order to really contribute anything to this world you have to believe you are entitled to that responsibility.”
I’ve known for years that I needed more self-confidence. But how to get it? People and books have glib advice, but I’ve never found much traction in years of effort. But something about this statement, where she conflates confidence and creativity, existence and contribution, entitlement and responsibility, seems to wrap the mystery together in a way that I am getting it.
I AM a creative, and I want to give. It’s essential to my existence that I continue to create whether it pays me or not. We artists ARE entitled, we’ve been given certain gifts. That gives us a responsibility to move into the world with our art. In order to sustain ourselves, we have to feed the spirit that keeps us moving. We have to have confidence to act despite the lack of validation, signposts, or paychecks.
It’s how we live, and how we give.