By Trent Rentsch
I’d like to come up with some clever, eye-catching opening line, but the fact is, I seem to have left my words in the bedroom. I’m fairly certain now that I left them there along with my ability to mix down audio that’s worth listening to and my lucky writing slippers. The hell of it is, I can’t just walk across the hall to retrieve them. Okay, I could get the slippers, but I’d be willing to bet that the luck runs out the moment I put them on and step across the doorway into this room.
I’m a victim of be-careful-what-you-wish-for syndrome. The departure of my older stepson into the real world left us with an empty bedroom. My wife suggested that I fill the room with all of my audio gear and assorted treasures, create a studio/study. I’d like to believe that she was anxious to fulfill the dream I’ve had for years, a real home studio space. In reality I know that she’d like the corner of our bedroom back that I took over when I moved in nearly 3 years ago. Yes, she wants that corner back, and the other corner, and the other, and the top of the chest of drawers. Oh, and the top of her hope chest too, AND the corner of our master bathroom where all of my back issues of RAP are piled. Yes, I’d be willing to bet that she’s just as happy not to bruise her arm on the computer desk while getting into bed as she is to see me contentedly working away in my dream room come true. Not that she’s seen complete contentment in here yet.
I should’ve seen the warning beacons flashing in the back of my brain when it took me a couple of months just to paint the room. I know now that my subconscious was screaming at me to stay put creatively, find any excuse not to move out of the creative comfort zone my corner(s) had become. And I thought it was just because I hate to paint; how naïve could I be? I blindly stumbled ahead with the painting, the carpet shampooing, the furniture moving, unwiring, and rewiring. And finally the moment came. I sit down in front of my computer, surrounded by all my usual Creative Totems, place my hands to the keyboard… and nothing comes out. Not for minutes, not for hours. “Ah well, just a little Writer’s Block,” I think. Perhaps I should just fire up the mixing board and see how my mic sounds in the new environment… crappy. Really crappy. Worse, I can’t seem to tweak the EQ to make it any better. I suddenly had that feeling I get at the Cheesecake Factory, midway through a slice of Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake after an already massive meal. The thing that I really, really wanted was a sweet mistake.
It’s funny how some things that shouldn’t make a difference, do. The computer is the same, the desk and chair are the same. Same audio equipment, microphone, software, headphones… same, same, same. Heck, the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister are still giggling at me from their perch on my computer monitor, Gumby and Pokey are waving from the top shelf as always, and most importantly my wife smiles at me from the frame to my right. There is a new lamp, new bookcase and new CD rack, but they shouldn’t make any more difference than a room across the hall with a fresh coat of paint. But they do. After a couple weeks of trying to find my words, my ear, I came to the obvious conclusion. It was high time I had this Creative Crisis.
Habit is a dangerous thing for a Creative. Whether you think of yourself dipping into a Creative well, mining a vein of Creative gold, or dancing with your Creative Muse, you must expose yourself to new experiences. Otherwise, the well will go dry, the mine will be stripped, and the Muse will be off to find a partner with some new moves. I’ve pounded that drum to kindling over the years, yet I find myself guilty of it myself over and over. There is comfort in the familiar, and deep down we desire that comfort. But along with comfort and familiarity comes complacency, and that is poison for a Creative.
The worst part is, you may not realize that you’ve been sucked into complacency until you’re jolted out of it. I have certainly been kidding myself for at least a year. From traveling the same road to work each day, to ordering the same thing at the same restaurants again and again, to watching the same TV shows, reading the same magazines and listening to the same CDs endlessly, I have been building myself a nice, comfy cage. Same old ideas coming in, same old crap coming out.
So now, because I unintentionally broke free of the prison I didn’t realize existed, I sit here at a loss for words and voice. It’s scary as hell because it’s not automatic anymore, but then again the thought that it had become automatic is even more frightening. Knowing that this is the right thing in the long run is making the short-term struggle easier to deal with. The words will be new and novel, the voice and production stronger, the Creative refreshed. And I’ll try not to make the same mistake again. After all, one man’s Creative comfort zone is his frustrated wife’s cluttered bedroom.