I am not good at following advice

I’ve been thinking a lot about Other Jairuses. (Other Jairii?) If I had made different choices, focused my energy on different things. What would I be doing now. What would I be good at.

Eight years ago I was trying to decide where I should put my creative efforts. In design and visual art, which I had done professionally off and on — In writing and storytelling, where I felt very confident and capable — or in music, where I had been DJing for a while but I had no idea if I had any of the necessary skills to put together a song that anyone might want to listen to.

I asked a lot of people which they thought I should focus on, and almost everyone said writing. It was my ‘strength’. A few people said design. No one said music.

Eight years later and I have a couple of releases out, I’ve done a lot of touring, and I am for sure Jairus The Electronic Musician to a lot more people than I am Jairus The DJ. I haven’t been writing regularly or doing any design that isn’t paid work. I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but I traded those outlets in to make music.

One of the things that happens when you don’t do something for eight years is you stop being really good at it. Or you stop being good at it on demand, at least. I can still write things that I feel good about, but that’s the exception rather than the rule, and oh my god is there anything less interesting than someone writing about how challenging they think writing is.

Eight years later and I feel the hole left in me where I used to tell stories. Eight years later and I remember how good it felt to be up late creating something beautiful in photoshop that wasn’t for anyone but me. Eight years later and I’m not a writer, or an artist, or even really a DJ anymore.

Eight years from now, what I am going to wish I had spent more time doing? What am I going to wish I had gotten better at? What art am I going to wish I felt comfortable making?

That’s what I need to work on today.

3 thoughts on “I am not good at following advice

  1. Eight years ago, you had no idea whether or not you could write decent music.

    I bet eight years ago, you also didn’t have nearly as captive an audience to talk about things you’re passionate about. Eight years ago, you probably didn’t anticipate going on multi-city tours with the music you weren’t sure you could even make.

    These aren’t things that are done by somebody who’s just dicking around. These are things done by somebody who’s doing something Important–something that matters to them.

    I think that for all those Jairii–Jairus the DJ, Jairus the Writer, Jairus the Musician, Jairus the Designer, Jairus the Hacker, and all the other Jairii you describe yourself as–sharing what’s been created is important (this is probably where Jairus the Copyright Nerd gets to show up everywhere). It’s clearly what drives #MP3Tribute, along with the fact that you CC-license all your music.

    Writing original music seems, at least to me, like a natural evolution of DJing, when the musician is someone who is clearly so passionate about sharing. What you created as a DJ was–barring only using, say, CC music–by its own nature ephemeral. Music is something meant to be performed–often, the creation of it requires performance to be absolutely certain of it–but also becomes fixed and can be shared with a wider audience than the people who were that particular night you were spinning.

    I don’t think you traded in any other creative outlets for your music necessarily. You tried something, and it led somewhere unexpected. Certainly, I can appreciate “missing” writing, or staying up all night on something to go up on dA. Hell, I miss acting. I haven’t been onstage in four years. But I think you “are” what you find yourself most drawn to, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, when you have time to spend doing what you find most fulfilling. I had a discussion recently about this very thing, and I realised that, regardless of how much I love the stage, I really *am* a software developer. I’d do it all day and all night if I could.

    Jairus the Writer and Jairus the Artist didn’t go anywhere. The artist is, perhaps, taking a nap, but the writer’s definitely still hanging around. Don’t let them be offended that Jairus the Musician has had your focus the past few years. Wondering what could have happened will only drive you mad. If you could change your decisions, you wouldn’t be who you are, and you could certainly not be where you are right now. Every time I think about what I might do differently, if given the opportunity, I always have to temper it with “and how would I make sure I still wind up where I am,” because even if I didn’t always like *how* I get here, I like where I am.

    And I think you do too.

    When you Need to write, you’ll write. When you Need to make art, you’ll make art. Right now, I think Jairus Needs to make music.

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