A day of reading, a subsequent funk, and the questions that follow

Did you always know which path was right for you? What did it feel like to always just know? If not, when you did figure it out, did that discovery come with epiphanies and parted clouds of clarity? Is the fact that some of us are still figuring "it" out a sign of undisciplined, spoiled self-indulgence? A failure to commit to one path? Or are some of us just not meant to have a singular goal or set of goals?

When we were about 22, my friend - who was finishing an undergrad degree in art - decided she just hadn't suffered enough to ever become a really great artist. Her words triggered confusing internal questions for me - Was it true? Did one really have to suffer in order to be really great at their art? I was certainly artistIC, but had yet to think of myself through any possible lens as an artist. My own creative and career goals (you won't be surprised to learn,) were still too elusive, fragmented, unfocused. Though I always kinda' hoped a way would open up that would allow me to magically connect the two. Could art and industry be married in a successful life path?

In spite of my confidence that I wasn't an artist, the only things that really mattered to me were creative, artist things. And because of this, I secretly wondered if - should this assertion happen to be true - I would ever create anything of artistic value or merit. Was I doomed to mediocre output, since although there had been some life challenges, I certainly couldn't count myself among those who had truly suffered.

These questions have accompanied my outlook ever since. The more of my artistic nature I've uncovered and danced with in the 20 years that followed, the more I've also wondered: is there enough darkness underneath to help peel back the layers to something magnificent in my owncreative output? The word "output" bugs me here, but I have to live with it because these words are flooding from my fingertips today, fueled by a sense of exasperated urgency.

Sometimes these questions are stirred again, and the part of me that doesn't believe there has to be deeply-ingrained pain in order to create masterpieces is turned on its ear.

Yesterday I read Sting's memoir, Broken Music. All of it. I'd intended to for years - since it was published in '03, in fact. For whatever reason, I waited, then devoured it in a single day. While I love biographies and memoir, maybe I knew instinctively that reading this book would color my view of a musician whose talent has riveted me since I began choosing my own music. Maybe I didn't want to know what spurred this level of success.

Today I'm in a funk. I was calling it "a little pensive, even melancholy" after I finished last night, and again this morning. But this afternoon I admit it to be a definite, solid funk. Here's the thing, though: it's possible - even likely - that the book isn't actually the cause of this internal heaviness. Perhaps I'm just in a funk that's caused by combinations of things other than having read the memoir of one of my favorite musicians. For example: the choice of having intentionally separated my extroverted self almost entirely from in-person interactions with other people... for weeks now. (No. Please don't send your Atlanta-based friends over to keep me company. I'm close to solidifying this final week's itinerary and the proximity of another person, just because they happen to be breathing and nearby, would only add stress, not relieve it.)

Also? I don't think of "being in a funk" as a necessarily bad thing. It's certainly not my favorite thing, no no. In fact, I'll be delighted when it passes. But these darker moods also seem to have their benefits. They carry challenges. They bring questions I might otherwise gloss over. "What is it you find so dissatisfying?" "Could you change it?" "Why do you think you're in a rut?" "Why haven't you made strides in this or that arena?" "Are you ever going to get off your butt and [fill in the blank with a number of momentarily-perceived-personal failures] or do you want to still be whining about this 3 years from now?"

Heavy questions swirling around me, I again wonder about this long-considered belief that the best art emerges from pain. I think it certainly can be a contributing factor. I also wonder at the completely-foreign-to-me drive to achieve in one arena. What must it feel like to know, never questioning, what your primary passion is? This man - Sting, that is - always, always craved music. From very early on, he wanted to make music, to perform music, to perfect music, to have his music enjoyed by others.

And I? I crave music, too, but in a completely different way. It's playing in my world pretty much any time I'm awake. Still, I have yet to really attempt to play an instrument. I don't sing in public. I also crave exploration with words, of images, of textures. I crave new sights and tastes, new stories and sensations. In cycles of equal measure. Which is a funny thing to say, since of all the celebrities I've considered, Sting, too, seems to crave these things. It's just that musical success was his path to all those other experiences.

My path, of course, is different from his. I've never craved fame or the kind of success Sting did. My path hasn't contained anything close to that drive - that level of dedicated focus on a single goal. Instead, it's been a meandering, wandering tapestry of my own making. Today's questions bring me to the idea that it's probably good to keep considering the quest for balance. Because authenticity and discipline could make a good combination in a quality artistic path.

For today? This personal quest for balance is attempting to figure out how many parts client design, how many parts novel-writing, and watercolor painting, and personal entreprenurial goals, and domestic responsibilities, and email responding this particular day needs to be made up of.

And if you're one of those people who also didn't always know that one creative path was infinetly more important to another... how do you find your personal balance?