We are three quarters of the way through 2020, and for the lack of nothing I have accomplished, it's been HELL. I might add, the seasons are not messing around. I woke up shivering this morning and I was in sweats and cuddled under a down comforter next to a soft, fat cat. Fall is no joke.
Back in March when I was laid off and all of New York City was shutdown, I was curious and kind of excited. I was stocked up on food so I didn't really have anywhere to go, and I was looking forward to finally having some me time. I went on instagram live for 2 weeks straight, Monday through Friday for an hour, playing cover songs. It was the very beginning of the lockdown and everyone was home feeling confused and wanting to be entertained. The response was amazing, and I thought 'wow maybe this is a blessing in disguise.' And then I stopped going live. Less and less people were going onto instagram, and it made me happy to think that people finally walked away from their phones, but I wondered if it was because everyone starting realizing that shit was hitting a high speed fan. As much as I want to say it's fun to go live with zero audience, it's really not. I didn't realize right away, but I was falling into a deep, deep creative slump.
Once I stopped focusing on cover songs and live performances, I started fooling around on the piano to find some inspiration for new music. Every day I would sit at the piano and mess around with some chords or melodies, and every day I walked away super frustrated. I did come up with a dark song about how people in power are out to get us with the virus (so not like me musically), but not every song is supposed to be great right? After a while I stopped going to the piano and started feeling depressed. No live gigs. No money. No inspiration. I started telling myself that I sucked, that music just wasn't for me, and I should start looking for a new career. I did not like where my head was, well, heading. Thank god for my heart, because I still felt that music and singing are my true passions, and I can't let a little disturbance in my daily life put myself down. Even before this pandemic, I would always feel down and out if I couldn't write a song. When I listen to old demos and songs I've recorded, I find myself so impressed with how far I've come, and how I could've written something like that. Eventually something will change and I'll be able to write 1-2 songs right on the spot, and I will feel better. I would say on average I've written a song or two once a month or once every 2-3 months. Now imagine once every 6 months.
The best way to describe writing a song, for me, is the emotion I am feeling. I sort of black out and go into a completely different world when inspiration strikes. My ears zone in on my heart and my imagination runs wild. I lose track of time. I lose my appetite. I love writing when I can escape into a feeling. If I have to force something whether it's a lyric or a bridge (rarely comes naturally on the first day), I walk away. I don't want to lose the purity, so for me it's best to let everything lie until I can finish the rest. Sometimes it comes in a few hours, sometimes a few days or the next month. One time I couldn't finish a lyric for almost 3 years! I wanted it to be really strong and I kept coming up with garbage, partly because my vocal demo had a word I didn't want to use but kept going back to. It was on my mind almost everyday for 3 years (not even exaggerating), so I'm glad that song is done now! When I spent all those days in quarantine sitting at the piano trying to write, I was just seeing the keys and the notes over and over again. I was seeing simple progressions and basic chords. I was staring at a plain black and white piano. When I have inspiration, it's full of light and colors and warmth. I don't see notes, I see words and I feel emotions. It is a whole different experience. The piano is a journey for me, not a black and white instrument.
The good news is, I was able to come up with a song I really love, and it's missing some lyrics, but it's done and she's perfect. That was a few months ago. After I wrote "Impressions," I was able to relax a little and stop trying to force something that wasn't working. Since then, I've made a few more attempts, with some songs slowly becoming, but nothing that hits so hard I'm busy for hours. There's a lot going on right now and I think I'm still trying to process and understand it all. I'm really collecting a lot of experiences and stories for my future songwriting binge, so I'm hopeful.
When I look back at all of the experiences I've had in my life and all the songs I've written, the ones I never finished or was never crazy about weren't based on love. They came from hatred and anger, and they never grabbed my attention. A lot of the songs I've written come from love and hope, inspiration and happiness. Right now there's a lot of anger and a lot of hatred, a lot of lies and a whole lot of nothing going on in the world. All of our experiences have been taken away from us. Feel like going to a Yankee game tonight? Can't. Ooh Celine Dion tickets are only $88 let's go! Can't (I did actually do that on March 8th. Oh the freedom to do so!). I've felt very trapped and at the same time constantly on my toes, wondering when the next opportunity will arise. What I'm trying to say is, right now everything we need-truth, love, happiness, life- was taken away from us and replaced with anger and negativity. My inspiration might have dulled for now, but my hope is still shining bright. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, and I know it's a terrible feeling to have, and often misunderstood by people who aren't like us. You can't force something that's not meant to be. That is SO TRUE for so many things in life...jobs, relationships, auditions, making large purchases, etc. If you don't fully love the house, are you going to buy it? Probably not.
I've found other ways to fill the hole in my life where the creative juices have fallen. I started to journal here and there. I've been reading more books, playing sudoku to activate my brain cells, and listening to lots of music from the past. I've been cooking and baking more, focusing on my physical health and hugging my cat A LOT. I also wrote this blog post. All artists, musicians, actors, comedians and dancers have been misplaced from their homes. I'm so worried about when the next gig will be and 'why can't I write a song?', that I have completely overlooked how this is possibly the greatest learning experience and the greatest challenge I will overcome. As someone once said, "this too shall pass." I am thinking of all my creative friends who are struggling. Please remember you are not alone. If you are feeling really down, reach out to a friend or family member and just hang out and be in the moment. Put the phone down. Rest your brain. Sometimes I wonder if this quarantine was supposed to prevent the system overload, help us clear the cluttered, stressful, high pressure air to take a deep breath and remember the beauty of life.
To discover Cristina's music and get the latest information on new music and shows, please visit her website at www.cristinafmusic.com. You can purchase her music on the website, iTunes, Amazon and more.