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Giambattista Tiepolo (Giovanni Battista Tiepolo):
The Head of Truth (c. 1744)

" … organizing something that only exists InMyHead."

Eventually, the vague and attractive notion that initiates an undertaking starts wondering where it's going. It has always been one thing to break the inertia of rest and quite another to set a coherent course, and it's entirely normal to get moving before becoming completely clear about proper direction. It usually doesn't much matter at first if one heads off in a wrong direction as long as one gets moving. U-turns are common early on and not unknown even nearer an ending. Job one's always focused upon getting moving. Later, increasingly unsettling questions bring the questionable gift of self-awareness, especially when the adventurer cannot quite imagine how to answer them. What at first seemed if not precisely clear but certainly clear enough, comes to appear opaque. Two weeks out and self doubt enters the frame.

The questioning usually comes in the form of the universally unsettling question: If you had that, what would you have?
This question intends to break the initiating trance and it does so by iteration. Asking this question a half dozen times tends to bring anything into sharper focus, though this process seems inherently disconcerting. Tacit meanings go explicit and comfortable ambiguity get challenged. This question sometimes yields discouragement, often, disappointment. It produces enlightenment but enlightenment was never in practice anything very much like a bed of roses. Courage often wanes as objectives come clearer. Ambiguity fuels optimism while clarity justifies dread.

I set out to create a SetList of thirteen of my own songs, and to practice those tunes so that, by the end of this quarter, I might perform them as an actual set before a live audience. Two weeks in, I asked myself the essential yet poisonous question. If I had that SetList, what would I have? And if I had that, what would I have? I quickly realized that this touted SetList only exists InMyHead. I have not written even a working draft on paper or on my computer. I've produced no document, no artifact. I have been working through a few tunes, recalling changes, updating endings. I'm working entirely from memory so far. I have not in any way prioritized tasks into a rational hierarchy. I have not scheduled practice sessions to better ensure I'll arrive prepared. I'm still broadly surveying the territory, but I'm sensing that this tactic cannot last much longer.

But even after I create a schedule, if, indeed, I ever concede to create a schedule, I'm realizing that this whole enterprise will largely remain InMyHead. I will create a physical list, but what will that piece of paper hold? Nothing more than an index, an order. The actual performance will remain in the future until it's delivered, and it will inescapably be delivered from InMyHead. No recording will hold what must be created in the moment of delivery. I can practice beforehand, but nothing will prove the existence of my stated objective until the moments within which I deliver it. The probability of failure remains, however much preparation I complete. The chance of disappointment should properly haunt my efforts.

It might be worse than that, for a performance might not be properly characterized as anywhere but InMyHead beforehand. It's mixed in the moment it's delivered, though much might be decided beforehand. I'll practice, practice, and practice some more while understanding that the practice isn't the performance, either. By the end, I will have certainly produced a physical SetList and I'll probably even update each tune's lyric sheet, some of which are now non-existent. I might manage to initiate an ongoing process for retaining my catalogue somewhere other than just InMyHead. I might, once I've finished preparing, even manage to produce fresh recordings of me performing every tune on the list. Who knows? I know for certain in this moment that I'm engaged in a process of organizing something that only exists InMyHead. No mere artifact will do anything about that fact.

And if I had that, what would I have?

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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