As I dug into yet another day of working on my website music1967.com, which when it’s done will consist of more than 100,000 words, I was asked a question:
“How are you going to monetize it?”
And I said, without thinking, “I don’t care.”
It’s true. Once the idea was rejected by enough publishers (according to my agent, who kinda sorta seemed to try to sell it), the idea of being paid for it joined the dust bin of many other enthusiasms that didn’t pan out.
Turns out a creative life is full of such things.
But here I am, at the height of a pandemic, living in some friends’ attic, and spending hours every day banging away at a website, writing it week by week, day by day, when I could be pursuing paying work and have a bit of money in the bank. (Actually, I’m doing those things, too, but not with the dedication I’m bringing to music1967.com.)
And so, the question: Why? Why am I writing about a year, 53 years past, that very few normal people would ever consider reading 56 (total) webpages about? Why spend the time? Why focus on this?
It’s not the mountaineers’ reason, “Because it’s there,” because it isn’t! Well, it partly is, and I’m putting it up, week by week, through 2020, as a public commitment to getting it done.
It’s not because the world needs to geek out on this one particular year, though I’ve certainly gotten many hundreds of hours of pleasure out of doing just that. I love reading history, always have, and this is my little shot at creating some.
It’s certainly not because it’s going to make me famous. I’ll never be actually famous, and I’ve already been famous enough to satisfy that teenage desire (that’s me in the rock pic Almost Famous.) I would love to have other music geeks be impressed with what I’ve assembled, I will admit that.
But I do have my reasons, and my friends’ quite-reasonable query about “monetization” prompted some thoughts about that.
I do it in part because I enjoy it. I’m a lifelong rock music fan, that era is largely over, and it was MY era. I was born the year of “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, had an adolesence fueled by prog rock and heavy metal, and began my career as a music critic with punk and disco.
Oh, and yeah, much of my career was as a music critic. So, this is legit, yo! It’s entirely possible that when this is done it will be a nice portfolio piece, to go along my music clips elsewhere on davidwattsbarton.com, and to go alongside my album which hardly anyone has heard and my one man show hardly anyone has seen and my musical that NO ONE has heard because…it’s not finished.
But those are just circumstance, really. I haven’t been a music critic, professionally, for as long as I was one. I’ve written about a lot of things, most recently Japan and Japanese culture. (Have I mentioned I have a book coming out?)
But what’s the real WHY? Yes, I’m interested, it’s fun for me, I’m constantly finding new amazing things about 1967 that I will never even be able to squeeze into those 100,000+ words. It is, as they would have said back then, mind-blowing what happened in this one year.
And I’ve always enjoyed having my mind blown.
But there are reasons, and they are good ones. If you’re read this far, bless your heart. You’re one reason I’m writing as well.
One is the above: Like my album and my one man show, I am spending hundreds, thousands of hours on music1967.com because I am a creative person and this is what creative people do. We do it for love, we do it for pleasure, we do it because maybe someone will find it and enjoy it, too.
I’m doing this because this is who I am.
I’m also doing it because I really want to share what I’ve found. It’s interesting. It’s entertaining. Some of it is even inspiring. It’s like when you’re reading a book, and you find something remarkable, and your first response is to turn to whoever you’re with, and say, “Listen to this!”
Now multiply that by thousands of little things. I like doing that. Sharing is caring…it’s TRUE. Sharing stories is what humans do. Some of it is sharing out own stories, some of it is sharing others’ stories, some of it is making up stories – but all of it comes from a desire to share with our fellow humans.
There’s another reason that is perhaps a bit more particular to me: I have long told myself that I don’t finish things. It is true. As I noted, I have a number of projects that I have started that I abandoned. Now, I know enough about creative people – I’ve covered them as a journalist, and I’m friends with many – that I know that’s just a part of being a creative person. No one can finish everything they start. Not everything deserves to be finished.
But I, like you, have told myself stories about myself for years, and one of them is that I don’t finish things. Problem is, a) it’s true, b) that’s ok, but c) there are some things worth finishing. Even if it’s not easy. Even if there’s no clear profit there. Even if no one cares whether you finish it.
I began this year planning to finish this. I had come back to Sacramento at the beginning of the year to hibernate and finish a few things. I was also going to do a live show, record a second album and start a daily blog. The live show became a webcast; the second album has to wait, because I can’t work in close proximity to anyone in a studio; and you’re reading the blog right now. (Still? Really? I love you.)
In short, 2020 is conspiring with me to get this crazy, sprawling, who-cares-anyway project done. I’m not going anywhere, and the fact is, I don’t want to. Not until it’s done. I want to have this finished (though in fact, finishing the writing is just the first step, but it’s the biggest). I want you to learn about this amazing, amazing year, and I want to check it off my list. I want to clear that space in my head for other creative projects.
I also want, through writing about this process for myself, for others to see that perhaps they should stop worrying about whether anyone else cares about the project they’re passionate about, or whether they’ll get paid, or get famous. I want others to just let that shit GO.
Having a good why for a project is always a good thing, but sometimes it’s not so clear. For me, getting music1967.com done is very clear now, and I’m finding that it fuels me every day to get up, ignore the fact that there’s sunshine out there somewhere, stops me worrying about the Big Pandemic Picture, and just sit down in front of this computer and put one word after the other.
Because that’s what I do. That’s who I am. Because I want to share this with the world, even if the world couldn’t care less. That’s not my business, really. My business is to do what I do, put it out there because that’s what I feel compelled, even inspired, to do. How the world responds is the world’s business.
Ultimately, I think it’s best to do things without any attachment to any result, whether it’s money, or people’s admiration, or something really dumb, like fame. But that’s easier said than done, especially when the work is hard, or tedious, or there are other fun things to do.
Do you have something like this, a project of some sort, that you’ve not completed, that you’ve worked on in fits and starts, that you think is crazy interesting one day, and then wonder why anyone in the world would care the next?
Do it. Please. For you. For the world. The world won’t be much better for it, just as music1967.com isn’t going to change it. But being a person who keeps at it, who pushes through resistance, who shares what “needs” to be shared – that’s why we’re here, isn’t it?
What I want to create has some value, if only to me; but if it has value to me, it could have value to someone else. The same is true of what you want to create.
And this time is perfect for it. Distractions are at a minimum. So do it. Now. I am, and it feels great.
Now, back to work.