Did you miss me? For I have been gone.
But now I am returned. And I have brought with me gifts of knowledge and experience. If you are interested in: where I have been and what I have found, or want to know the true value of Real Darkness and Time then, by all means, read on…
Lover and I left Edinburgh and went on a journey. We traveled far and wide around the UK. We visited the one place that is most special to me in all the world (see photo). We spent good time with people we love, we drank wine, we ate incredible food, and we consumed heroic doses of the best coffee in the world. 😉
We rented a cottage with a woodburning stove, deep in a place far away from any wifi or phone signal. We read books, of the paper kind. When the dark came, the sky was a blanket of stars; which, after becoming inured to the perpetual light pollution of the city, was a source of endless fascination and delight to me. Real Darkness. The ubiquitous and all-seeing-eye of the interwebs was thwarted, and screamed (in my mind). And at night, I would play Ukelele and sing, in front of a blazing fire.
It was a good journey.
All of last year I was working on the album. And I mean all of last year. It was the first time I had been thru the process of: writing, recording and producing an entire album from scratch. I had no basis for comparison; no blueprint or experience of how to pace myself. In lieu of these things, I figured: the more hours I put into it, the better it would end up. So I didn’t take a day off.
Given where I was, and the resources I had at the time, this idea turned out to be the right one. I ended up pushing myself deeper and further than I have ever been, and making absolutely the best album I was capable of. But it definitely cost me. After release I was properly spent.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight and a little distance, I am able to look back at the process more objectively and sift thru the ashes of my spent time for things I can use to be a little more strategic as I engage with the Next Big Thing. One of the best of these little ‘found jewels of knowledge’ is: the absolute creative necessity of incubation.
To my mind, the absolute best metaphor, to illustrate this and, for the entire creative process is that of: The Garden.
In a garden you must first: prepare the ground and make the soil the best it can be. You have to be aware of the system that you are working in, and have some knowledge of it’s rules and guidelines (the seasons, the weather, etc). You have to gather and plant the best seeds you can find, trusting that they will, by some force that you do not fully understand or comprehend, grow of their own volition. You must then tend to them over time, giving them optimal amounts of food and water according to their individual needs, whilst remaining constantly sensitive to the feedback you are getting as they grow and develop.
You have to learn to: give them energy when they need energy and leave them when they need to be left. The periods of incubation are Key. Above all you must accept that you are always working on their schedule, not yours. The process is not one that can be rushed. You cannot pull something out of the ground halfway thru the season and hope it is ready. Things are grown when they are grown. The garden is what it is. It will be what it will be.
In my practice today (the first since I arrived back on Monday), all the material I was working on before I left is different in a myriad of ways. It has grown. It has developed. It has evolved during the interim.
Incubation. Time away. Crop rotation. Whatever you want to call it, this principle in action is as vital to the creative process as the deep and intense periods of practice that must precede it.
Nature moves in cycles, as does life.
Why would art be any different?
My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist. If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music. Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.
Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things. If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.
And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter: