Updated: Jul 17
The fog is real. Sometimes, when we want to create, the ideas just don't come. The fog surrounds us and makes it seemingly impossible to move forward. How can we change our perspective to see the fog for what it really is, an opportunity?
So, how do I deal with the fog, how do I deal with the uncertainty that comes with starting something new, or returning to something I haven’t done in a long time? Something calls to me. Something, I keep thinking about, that slips into my mind. Right now in my life, I’m in the middle of both. On the one hand, I’m very much starting out on my career as a podcaster.
Podcasting something that I am so excited and crazy about doing, but have ben afraid to do for a long time. It is very new and surrounded by fog. On the other hand, I’m embracing a change in my artistic goals. When I was a kid, I wanted to make video games. I have notebooks filled with characters, stories, drawings and maps filled with concepts for games that I wanted to make with my childhood friend Cole.
I was going to write the music for all of the games we wanted to make. But, just like most people, youthful ambitions wither away as you get older, and certain realities set in. Storytelling is something that I’ve always been interested in, yet I’ve never felt that I could actually do anything with it.
I never felt good enough, or educated enough, or worthy. I also love writing music. Nothing else in the world makes me feel as alive as I am when writing a new piece of music.
And while, I’ve stayed mostly in the realm of concert and contemporary classical music, I think I’m finally ready to say that I want to write music for new purposes. I want to writing music for video games, for collaborations, for tv and film. I want to get out of my box. I’m not abandoning what I already do, I just want to do more. Writing music for stories. Something that is both old and new.
So, I’ve got fog on both sides. I have an idea of what I want to do, and only a limited idea of how to do them.
The fog, as I’m choosing to define it, is a kind of space. It feels like we’re going nowhere, it affects our capacity to see, as we move forward in the pursuit of achievement, we feel direction less, because nothing around us is immediately changing, or if it is, we can’t see it. In the fog, despite having a goal of what we want to do, every direction looks the same. There’s no clear path. The other nasty part of the fog, is that as we seemingly move forward, we get tripped up. Things that we could step over or avoid if we could just SEE them, knock us down, keep us from flowing and progressing quickly.
The fog feels like a purgatory, because nothing is defined.
I’ve been here many times in my career so far. It is maddening, but fortunately, a temporary problem.
So, how do we get out of here? How do we move beyond the fog, and into the blissful realm of artistic creation and achievement. How do I get from where I am today to that clarity of purpose?
So, there is a lot to breakdown here.
The fog is usually an indicator. It isn’t a curse, it isn’t some unnatural occurrence designed to keep you from doing what you want to do.
I know for me, I fall into fogs when I forget what is important to me. You could call it forgetting, but perhaps, being overly focused on the wrong thing is a better way of putting it.
So for instance, focusing on the end result, as opposed to the process, often gets in the way.
I like the analogy of the golfer. I learned about this studying the Alexander technique in Boston.
So, an amateur golfer is having a hard time with his swing. He very frequently slices the ball. Slicing, if you aren’t familiar is when you hit the ball at an angle that keeps it from going straight forward, veering off to the right.
And so the teacher watches the golfer to see what is going on with his swing. And, as the golfer is convinced it is swing that is the problem, he slices and slices and slices. Exasperated, he turns to the teacher. “See! I told you so.” And the teacher, smiles wisely, and begins to show the golfer that there is nothing wrong with his swing. He is slicing because instead of keeping his eye on the ball, he is looking ahead to see where the ball will go AS he is swinging. He is so eager to see where the ball will go, that he literally loses sight of his shot.
So, what does this have to do with the artistic fog? When we focus too much on the end result and lose sight of the process, we make mistakes.
When we think too much about what the audience is going to say, how friends will react to something we make, how our work may be judged by colleagues in our communities, especially when we are doing work that doesn’t fit in. We lose sight of what brought us there in the first place. Looking up to see where the ball goes, before we hit it. That the swing is GOLF, not where the ball lands. That the process of creating art, iS the art, not how many people will see it or like it.
So, when we are in a fog, most of the time we have placed too much emphasis on the end result, instead of focusing on why we are there in the first place. I write music because I LOVE it. Writing music that pleases my so and so colleague is folly. It limits me, makes me second guess all of my decisions. It makes me forget the WHY of it all.
But the truth about the fog, is that it is an illusion. Fog makes you FEEL like you are going nowhere. It makes the stumbles feel more significant, it can amplify that feeling of being lost. But, this is not the case. The Fog actually means that you are moving in the right direction. Like the way that imposter syndrome is actually a good thing, despite it not FEELING so. Imposter syndrome means you are challenging yourself, you are putting yourself into a new place, you are stretching yourself and rising to the occasion.
The stumbling and the grappling in the fog, that IS the journey. That the fog is not some purgatory between your normal life and the supreme bliss of creativity, IT is the creativity. The fog is the journey of figuring it all out. The fog is a white canvas that you can do anything with.
When we are true to ourselves, it takes vulnerability and courage. It can be HARD to look in the mirror or secretly realize that things aren’t going where you actually want them to go. These truths, these projects, these goals, whatever they may be, are so important to us, so important to who we are. It is only natural that we should at first be afraid to actually do them, because they SUMMON us to be the best version of ourselves, to reach out and actually DO something, something worth remembering, something worth sharing, something worth telling someone else. Something that makes us feel ALIVE. And when we have an idea on what to do, and it can be true that we have multiple ideas at the same time, competing ideals, it can be the hardest thing in the world to find that focus, to know exactly where to go.
If only if only we had a map. IF only we had certainty, a clear set of directions.
The funny thing about the fog, is that even if you had a map, it wouldn’t help you. The fog defeats the map. But, that doesn’t matter because the trick is “there is no map.”
The fog demands that you have a COMPASS. The fog makes us figure out where true North is. Where we actually want to head. And everyone has a different true North. Everyone has a different achievement they seek to make.
So, the next time you are in a fog, don’t be afraid. Don’t throw up your hands and panic, and think I’ve lost it. Remember to really search for your true North. Stop looking for a map, and start looking at your compass.
The fog is a matter of perspective. The fog can be detrimental, it can be a never ending labyrinth. Or you can choose to see it as a blank canvas. You can choose to see it as an opportunity to look at your compass. Maybe you haven’t looked at it in a while.
When I was first writing this script, for episode 1, I could never seem to nail down the topic. I’ve written I think 4 or more drafts, each with a different topic or direction, connected, but not flowing. Not humming along.
I was in the fog. And I knew what I was doing, but I just couldn’t figure it out. And week after week, I kept panicking. My deadline is coming up soon, I don’t know what I’m doing, who even cares what I have to say, I’m not the expert. The noise was really getting to me.
And so in exasperation, I talked to my partner Sophie. And told her everything that was on my mind, and how I felt I was juggling the things I have to do, the things I need to do, and the things I want to do and I’m dropping them all. And worst of all I can’t figure out what to write about.
And simply she said: “Write about what going in your head right now.”
I was so deep in the fog, I couldn’t even see the fog for the fog.
And after all of my stumbling and grappling, and little help from my partner, I remembered to check my true north, To forego the map and check my compass.
So, if you are ever in a fog, especially at the beginning of projects, choose to see the fog for what it is.
An opportunity. A chance to revisit your own, personal ideals and ambitions. The fog is a chance to check in with yourself. Maybe you’ve forgotten something important about you. The good news is, that no matter how lost you feel, if you look, True North is always there, waiting for you.
Below is the most recent episode of the Sand Dollar, I'd love it if you check it out!