Sometimes I am able to see the exact moment at which the roots of my anxiety manifest. I was, just an hour ago, sitting at my computer, reading reviews of The Crown online while also playing an inane phone game I am periodically addicted to and listening to music. A song came on that I particularly love, ‘Stonemilker’ from Björk’s album Vulnicura. Listening to the strange but direct specificity of Björk’s lyrics alongside one my favourite of her melodies, I realised that, as is often the case for me, I hadn’t really listened to the lyrics in a narrative sense. My default mode of listening to songs is to hear lyrics almost as I would any other musical component. Which is not to say I hear them entirely without semantic content, but that I experience ‘meaning’ in lyrics more tonally than narratively—as images and moments, rather than a cohesive lyrical whole.
I’ve got off track. What I had meant to get to, is that, in hearing the song in a more narrative light for the first time, I felt a sudden desire to pull out my guitar and see what it would look like to try learning a Björk song, in all its rhythmic, lyrical, melodic strangeness. This desire emerged as a sudden burst of creative and emotional energy, a feeling I have often, and have always had.
In writing I have never been stuck for ideas. There are always many more things I want to write than things I actually write. I will often note down ideas on a to-do list where they are eventually forgotten, or worse, where they sit and fester, becoming constant reminders of my failure to do, until I do what in the moment feels like a small act of liberation and remove them.
This time, as usual, my notion, to play my guitar for the first time in months, remained inside my head, unmanifest. I felt almost outside myself, watching it happen in the minutes after the song moved to something else, my game continued, and I clicked on the next episode’s review. My desire faded, the creative energy dissipating into the monopoly on my attention held by my computer screen. But for a few minutes there I still felt like I had a choice, that I could follow my desires, that I could look away. There is almost always an element of bargaining. This time: I would play the guitar after I had read all the reviews before where I was up to in The Crown (for the record, as of writing, the eighth episode of the second season). One hour and around ten reviews later, the moment had passed.
Writing this is a consolation. When I realised I had again lost my grasp on a feeling of desire and inspiration, I noticed in its place a reflection on the mechanics of my experience: a moment of creativity giving way to distraction, avoidance, and eventually, anxiety and shame. Something small, but still, the impulse to write this down and try to understand. I’ve been hesitant to put concrete new year’s resolutions down on paper, but I’d like to try following those feelings more this year, to seize on inspiration rather than succumbing to paralysis and fear.