There’s a vaccine coming. I heard about it on the radio today. The presenters were excited.
There was an official sounding man talking about yoghurt as well. I think to stress the complicated nature of inoculating the country’s population against a disease which turned 2020 upside down, shook it around, kicked it about and caused a lot of pain and suffering in the process. As opposed to yoghurt, which (depending on any allergies you might have) is a pretty harmless, straight-forward matter.
How did I feel about the vaccine? I didn’t exactly jump for joy. Everything still seems so far away and so distant. I don’t want to get my hopes up for a return to normality too quickly in case of being burned. And right now things are harder than they were the first time round. Maybe there’s a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder at play, but certainly there was a novelty to the first lockdown that made elements of it bearable, enjoyable even.
Furloughed from my part time retail gig I watched a lot of TV and films. I read some good books. Once the shock of ‘rethinking the year’ passed it was fine, really. There were tangible things on the horizon too. Remember the joy of the restaurants and pubs opening up again? Of going round to someone’s house? That was all prohibited, and getting it back felt like a gift. The summer showed up, just when we needed it.
This time it’s harder. It’s darker. And I can’t look ahead. I haven’t even thought about Christmas yet. Too far away. I turn 30 in January and I won’t make any plans til nearer the time. Taking each day one at a time is the only way I can make this work right now. I admit that my lack of enthusiasm for the vaccine worries me slightly. I’m not a science sceptic either. I am worried I’ve got a bit of Stockholm syndrome. Am I afraid of leaving my captor? It’s maybe melodramatic to say it, but I feel like the year has changed me. I can feel it physically and mentally. I need to unpack that before I re-enter the arena. I think we might be unpacking this year for a long time, as a society and – many of us – personally too.
A new relationship with work
it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. I was extremely anxious about society as we knew it falling apart back in March, and then rallied to make the best of the time until November or so. By accident rather than design, this has been the first year that I’ve ever sat and focussed on creative projects as my primary concern.
Normally I’m so preoccupied with making money to facilitate everything that I’ve either been in full-time work or taking on an endless string of all consuming part-time jobs that leave me no time. Money worries have been a problem throughout the year, but I’m glad that life slowed down enough for me to re-evaluate my relationship with work, and with my creative endeavours – because I doubt I’d ever have had the confidence in my own work to do that otherwise.
It feels liberating to stare down the challenges of 2020 and beyond and feel assured in the decisions you’ve made. In the person you have become. Nervous and anxious too, and by no means exempt from moments of self-doubt. I’ve concluded that my relationship with making things is maybe the most important one in my life. It’s the one that helps me make sense of all the other ones.
A big thing for me personally – and a lesson I will take into 2021 and beyond – is that adding other dimensions to your creativity is a positive thing. As a musician heavily involved in the machinations of what goes on behind the scenes, and also – at times – operating in that ‘music journalism’ field, it’s safe to say I’ve been far too close to it all for far too long. Far too bothered by things that are completely out of my hands. Putting far too much stock in metrics that are ultimately meaningless and say nothing about your work, reveal no truth. Focusing on the completely wrong stuff. For a long time I needed to do something else. People suggested it and I ignored the good advice because I was too invested in my existing routine, convinced that commitment to that was the be all and end all.
What does it mean?
I wrote earlier in the year about the kick I got from doing freewriting workshops over zoom with Maria Sledmere and Connor Milleken’s PopMatters workshops. Freed from any goals I was able to just scribble away and enjoy the process. Since October I’ve been attending a writing group run by Thi Wurd (who recently published two excellent new books, a collection of short stories and non-fiction memoirs by James Kelman). I had no real long term goal with this, no real ambitions, other than to write one short story that would at some point in the ten-week block be critiqued by strangers, which terrified me. Last week I did that. The hours building up to it were oddly exhilarating, nerves like I hadn’t felt in years. A completely alien feeling.
It doesn’t matter if the story is good or not, I don’t think, though I will say I’m not embarrassed about it and maybe one day I’ll share it outwith the confines of that group. What matters more than any sense of achievement and occasion is how much doing something new and different in this sphere has revealed new things to me. I’m watching films more carefully, hearing songs differently, even such a rudimentary thing as having a conversation is something I feel much, much more conscious of. I can feel it feeding my other thought processes, musically, lyrically. I can feel myself looking at situations differently now – not necessarily looking to mine them for potential content – just taking it in.
Why is this happening? What does this mean? If this all sounds overly academic, I should stress that the pleasure I take in all things ‘art’ has been heightened since October. Whether that’s watching Boyhood for the first time amazed at the dedication of Richard Linklater and his cast, or marvelling at the subtlety in Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray, or enjoying the hell out of New Radicals one hit ‘You Get What You Give’, or listening to whatever song you recommend me with an open mind.
It’s made me hugely relaxed about where things go with my musical projects, which is something I have never been able to say with a straight face. I would probably fall into the category of ‘ambitious’. There are things I want to do in my life. Few of us are above that. But here’s the thing, you can work as hard as you want – nothing is certain, a lot of things are out of your control. I view my job now quite simply; to make things that didn’t exist before, and to do as good a job of that as possible, and ideally enjoy the process – or feel something. I can’t control the reaction or the response though and I won’t be wasting the slightest amount of energy caring about it.
Just do it
I’m finishing 2020 in strange circumstances. I’m driving for a florist, taking flowers across the central belt. From South Ayrshire to North Berwick and everywhere in between. It’s a fun job, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going on with the deliveries. What are people celebrating? Or mourning? Are the flowers expected? Do they require a father to call his teenage daughter downstairs to receive an offering from a prospective suitor? There’s a lot of time to think, which is a blessing or a curse depending on the day.
Today I didn’t go out driving though. Instead I helped make wreaths. I can honestly say that this is the last thing I expected to do for money this year. And I enjoyed doing it, for much the same reason I’ve come to love the process of writing short stories. Taking some time over something, figuring out what works, what doesn’t – trimming it down to make bits stand out. It’s all much the same thing, when you think about it. As I was doing this I released I hadn’t done anything with such a visual focus for a long time. Something to think about, and be open to, going forward.
That’s my end of year message, I think. It’s a little bit self-absorbed. Maybe it means nothing to you. Maybe it strikes a chord. I hope it means something. I’ve had a terrible few weeks full of loss, young men gone well before their time, family members passing suddenly and unexpectedly, and generally beyond that feeling a bit trapped and hopeless. All of the things I’ve written about have been a great comfort at some stage. So what’s the thing you always wish you’d done? Do it, I say. Do you need a break from the thing you should be doing? Or do you just need an outlet in the first place? Are you wanting to paint, or start a writing class, or pick up the guitar? Don’t worry about the destination, just let the process take you along.
Main image: Craig Angus in the studio
Feature image of Craig Angus on home page, also used in the introduction to his Adventures in Lockdown series for Sceptical Scot which began in May 2020