Creativity, Vulnerability, and (Oh, Yeah) My Debut EP
Releasing creative outputs into the world is a vulnerable thing. These artifacts—precious as newborns, and, as newborns are, often kept closely to the chest—mean, but they don't mean absolutely. And their significance even for their makers may change and turn depending on how they're received. Interpretation never ceases and meaning is not final. But that doesn't eliminate the temptation for the artist to retort, "But what I was actually trying to say was..."
Which brings us to vulnerability. Over two months ago, I released my debut EP (Vanity Project, Vol. 1) on all the digital things. But, if you don't live in the LBK or follow me on Instagram (on which I'm a little more active than the other socials), you might not know that, even if I've known you for a long time—even if you're a person I care about. Why? Because I'm afraid. Afraid of those imperfections in myself which I still judge more harshly than the angry God of my childhood. (I am a good Lutheran.) Afraid of your response: Will you be offended by my use of strong language. Will you "misunderstand" something? And what about musicians I admire? Will they think this is legit? And who am I to think that someone I admire would give these songs a listen? These and a hundred other self-doubting questions surround this little EP of mine.
Vanity Project, Vol. 1 is a passion project. Music is not my career, but it is my first love. I've survived a dissertation defense. I've read papers in front of world-renowned scholars. I've published a book and read the reviews (both positive and negative). While my academic work is something I've always felt connected to existentially—and while there's been not a little anxiety on that front—nothing has frightened me quite like releasing these songs. At this very minute I'm asking myself, "Do these songs even have enough artistic merit for me to worry over their reception and then write a silly blog post about it, which is nothing more than an imposition of my narcissism on others?"
Lately, I've been reading a lot of Paul Tillich, who drew upon the findings of psychoanalysis in his philosophical-theological reflections on the human condition. Among his most popular writings are his sermons, the most famous of which is probably, "You Are Accepted." I've been trying to accept my own acceptance in the face of my being unacceptable. Which is hard. I'm a perfectionist; and I tend not to like myself precisely because I try measuring up to an impossible standard. And that means I often dislike things I make. I'm inclined to accept not my acceptance, but rather the slightest bit of negativity sent in my direction. That's got to stop.
It's not simply that I need (in good biblical language) to loose myself from the shackles of the all-too-present-in-these-sociopolitical-times negativity that fuels the rhetoric of everyone from anonymous haters to the Troll Supreme in the White House. Nor is it that I need to accept my own creative work without a healthy does of honest criticism from self and others. Rather, my impulse and desire to create are not fully satisfied if I don't cast my songs over the proverbial waters.
So, to hell with my anxiety about what others—or even, indeed especially, I—think. I want these songs to be heard, even if they're hated. So, here they are (you can find them on the "Music" tab of the website or over on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6il1Hi6oOok6qw93qRemgI). It's a new month, and a new day for my little side gig. Catch me on the socials at @tsatkinsonmusic (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), because I'm going to be a little more public with the music stuff in the coming weeks.