I read somewhere that people who start a blog often give up within three months. One of the main reasons to stop blogging is the mistaken idea that every post has to be a masterpiece and that the blogger must be infallible. Because it is not possible to do something perfectly, we stop trying.
It’s not just bloggers. Perfectionism kills creativity. Perfection is actually the last thing we should strive for: it is the way we deal with our weaknesses that make our style. It is the grit that creates the pearl.
It is well known that Joni Mitchell plays the way she plays because she found some guitar chords hard to hit and had to find a way to deal with that. Django Reinhardt didn’t really started to sound like Django until he lost the use of three fingers on his left hand. Only in limitation does the master distinguish himself, as Goethe already knew.
I recently listened to an interview with Al Stewart, who became world famous overnight in 1976 with Year of the Cat, and at 66 is still an active singer-songwriter. He invented his own genre, historical pop-rock, with lyrics referring to historical figures and events.
Stewart has been on my record player/cassette player/CDplayer/MP3 player for 36 years. Three times I saw him live, once during the Antwerp Night of the Proms in 1988, with a symphonic orchestra and lots of flag waving, and twice in 1999 on his own, just the man and a guitar, in small concert venues in Puurs and Ternat. I did not miss the orchestra. His voice and his guitar were enough.
It surprised me to hear that Al thinks of himself as a) not a good singer and b) not a good guitar player. He is not the kind of person that I would suspect of false modesty. He is well aware of his considerable talent as a lyricist.
He says he finds it difficult to sustain a note, as a real singer can. He gets around it by using his talent as a lyric writer: his voice glides effortlessly through the verbiage and it is never necessary to hold a syllable for very long. His marvellous lyrics have become his trademark. And as he says: Bob Dylan cannot sing either.
As for the guitar playing, well, I would sell my soul to the devil to play like Al.
But I can never even come close, so I will not even try.