Monday, November 8, 2010

The Anxiety of Completion

Why, why, after doing this for more than twenty years, would a new CD release be a cause for anxiety?

It's a product we're proud of. A product we know is good. The music is enjoyable, the variety is captivating, the design is impeccable (thanks to the amazing Megan Verdugo). The whole thing is something we're excited about... and yet, as I announced the pre-release promotions yesterday, I got a jumping in my chest that didn't go away all day.

(Oh yeah. You wanna buy? Come to our store.)

This is not excitement. It is anxiety. And I wouldn't admit this publicly, except I know I'm not alone:

—A dear friend just finished a book and approved the final designs. Ready to send to the printer. The next day, she went to see her shrink complaining of extreme depression. He upped her meds.

—Another dear friend called me the day after her successful CD release party, and admitted that she was depressed. We talked it through, hung up. No resolution.

—Then there's me. I'm one of those annoyingly optimistic people who never gets depressed. So my emotions manifest in anxiety.

People, what is going on here? What are we worried about? There are questions:

Question: Will anyone buy it?

Answer: Some will. The entire world won't, but so what.

Question: Will anyone like it?

Answer: Some will. The entire world won't, but so what.

Question: Will anyone hate it?

Answer: Yes. But they probably won't tell you, so who cares?

I'm stumped. What could possibly be the reasons for anxiety, except the above givens, which are supposed to get defused when we admit them out loud. I write to beg you for your insight, because I can't figure it out and I can't stomach the idea of a shrink.

What do we fear? (Not "Fear itself." That's out. So 1932.)

1) BARING THE SOUL. When you put out an artistic product, you're telling all. You're laying yourself bare, for public criticism, and they WILL criticize. They will notice and comment to their friends (but not to you) on the misplaced hairs and the cellulite. Don't fool yourself. They will. Whatever.

2) TAKING A STAND. When you put out an artistic product, you're saying, "Look at me. Look what I have to say! Look what I can do!" and though we do this musical thing for sharing of our hearts, surely there's a bit of ego in there, too. Personally, I find that embarrassing. Ego? Me. Blech. I'd like it to be all about giving, but it's also about showboating what I can do with all the work I've put in. Yikes. It gives me palpitations even now.

Your thoughts? (No Freudian analysis, please. My parents were good to me.)

No matter what, it's done. It'll be out in a week.

So what is this anxiety? Perhaps it is simply the unexplained anxiety of completion.

Roll over, honey and hand me that lighter. I need a cigarette.

3 comments:

Jonathan said...

I've been pondering this very issue. And to kill two birds with one stone, I'm answering you in my own blog. :)

http://jonathanfeist.berkleemusicblogs.com/2010/11/08/digging-out-from-your-post-project-blues/

Susan Gedutis Lindsay said...

I had a feeling you would be... my freudian friend calls it "Exhibitionist Guilt." Can't wait to see your musings...

s

pgmulvaney said...

Ah, but you do fear fear itself, else you wouldn't be writing about anxiety now, would you?

It isn't the "art" of it that "bares the soul" to criticism, that's not what we fear when we finish a project. It criticism of *craft* -- that someone will tell you you aren't "good enough". This is what school trains us to fear, the "F".

This goes beyond mere artistic post-partem, Sue; it's a deeply-rooted program. You lose control --
I heard this from you during the mastering phase -- you lose control of the fate of the project. Some people won't like *it* --NBD. But far worse, some people will think *me* inadequate, ah, there's the rub. And over that there is no control, for that there is no defense.

Relax -- I *know* you and Stephen to be wonderfully creative people of highly advanced musical skills. I've known a few, as you know. I'm being brutally honest. I used to be pretty good at this stuff myself. So relax. My guess is the album will be very good, just like everything else you guys do. Because you are good at this. Hey, everybody's good at something. :-)