For much of last year I was busy recording an EP of six songs to go with my book. I loved the process. I loved going to the studio (an imperfect old pigshed). I loved sharing ideas with Richard, who honed his brilliant ears as the front man of cult indie band BOB. I loved the way the songs took on a life of their own and began to dictate what they needed – a piano line here, a vocal harmony there. We were playing, literally, recording the songs again and again, trying to iron out the mistakes and get the perfect take. But as time went on and the takes stacked up I began to notice something – In spite of their imperfections, I preferred some of the earlier, less perfect takes. I even began to listen to some of them forensically, like a scientist, trying to figure out what I did that I liked so much. I wanted to recreate the magic, only without the imperfections. Was it the timing, or was it that woody sound the cello had because the microphone was too close? Was it the phrasing or was it the croak in my voice because I had stayed up too late drinking and smoking? After weeks of trying, I realised that my efforts were futile. Like low-fat margarine, or fake fires. No mess, no magic. This was music, not science.
‘Chronic remorse’ wrote Aldous Huxley in a 1946 foreword to Brave New World, published in 1932, ‘is a most undesirable sentiment.’
Speaking of his own (brilliant) book, he says:
‘Its defects as a work of art are considerable; but in order to correct them I should have to re-write the book – and in the process of rewriting as an older, other person I should probably get rid not only of some of the faults of the story, but also of such merits as it originally possessed.’
The other day my own book arrived in the post. It was exciting to hold a book in my hands that I had written. To think of all those weeks and months and years of work. I began to read. My excitement turned to horror. There were mistakes in it. There were bad sentences. There were cliches!
My ego is full of remorse. My ego wants to jump on a plane, assume a new identity and do my whole life all over again but better. Only I can’t. Because I am human, and being human means being imperfect. Making mistakes. Which is fortunate, because in life as well as in books and music, mistakes are where the magic is buried.
‘You’ve got to be hurt and upset, otherwise you can’t think of the really good, penetrating X-rayish phrases.’
Huxley’s Helmholtz knew that in a perfect world the only art is shit art.
My book is not perfect, and neither is the EP, but I’ve decided I’m going to muster up the courage to love them anyway, for the moments of magic they both contain. Just as I love my imperfect friends and family for the beauties they are, and just as I will keep on trying to love my imperfect self.
picture: my beautiful, imperfect friends and family listening to me read from my imperfect book and sing my imperfect songs imperfectly. #magiclife.