I came across this great site called Middle Mojo, which is all about creativity and aging, asking, “What happens when creative people get older and older people get creative?”
The Aimee Mann interview is excellent.
On writer’s block and lack of feedback from people who actually cared about her work:
I was interacting only with the record company. If I would write a song or record a song, the only people who would hear it and comment on it were people at the record company. And they have of course a totally different agenda than an agenda of art, of is this good or does it move me? And so 100% of the feedback I would get on what I would do was just depressing. Like, it’s not a single. So if you never get any feedback where people get any joy from what you’re doing or connect to it or are moved by it in any way, then you really start to feel like, “Well I don’t know why I’m fucking doing this.” I mean, sure I can write songs for myself but I mean, I am playing them for other people. And it gave me a very skewed belief that nobody cared.
(She couldn’t write for months and months until a friend of hers gave her The Artist’s Way.)
On making up games for songwriting:
I would make up these games for myself – I still do this actually – and Michael [Penn, her husband] and I started to do this with a friend of ours. We have, like, a songwriter’s club. We developed a really elaborate version of it, but I had a simpler version. I always started with writing down names of chords on little slips of paper, and then just threw them up in the air. And whatever landed face up, those were the chords. I did some other stuff, like cutting out headlines and things from newspapers. I got that idea from Fiona Apple, actually, to kind of jump start lyrical stuff.
On the difference between making art when you’re younger vs. older:
When you’re younger you have goals that are kind of about getting attention, maybe from certain people, or trying to create an identity. Having your art kind of wrapped up with specific or general members of the opposite sex, and trying to prove to other people or prove to yourself that you’re good or that you can achieve or that you’re special or interesting or whatever you’re trying to prove. And in lieu of having those goals and motivations, sometimes it’s really hard to be motivated to work. And in talking to him, the conclusion I drew was this: that we have those goals when we are young in lieu of having been taught skills of discipline and perseverance. And they serve for a while as a temporary substitute, but now it’s time for us to learn those skills of discipline and perseverance and practice and hard work. Those are skills that you have to learn. And some people get to learn them when they’re young so they don’t need to have these carrots and sticks of craziness and dysfunction. But when you don’t get taught those basic skills, you do need them, or it doesn’t happen.
On what 12-step programs can teach artists:
Let it go. Control the things you can control. And if you put that into practice enough and you literally spend no energy on shit you can’t control, which is everything.
Great read. Check out the other stuff on the site.