This is part three of my personal exploration of Captain Beefheart’s Ten Commandments of Guitar Playing. You can read the first part here and the second part here.
5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out
If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
The act of creation is not about thinking. You don’t wait until you’re ready. Creation is an action. You prepare for the act of creating with years of practice and being excellent at your craft, but while you’re doing it, don’t think about it. Don’t critique it. Don’t judge it.
When you’re staring a blank page, you’re drowning, struggling to fill the page to give yourself solid ground to stand on. You have to do it. Don’t let that blank page overwhelm you.
Create as if your life depends on it.
A drowning person never thinks, “I’m just going to sit here and wait to be inspired to try and get to the surface. I wish I could find the energy for it today. I have so much to do, and I keep getting distracted by the sound of that boat engine. How do they expect me to try and breathe with all that noise going on? I’ll start saving myself next month after that project is done at work.”
Use the feeling of saving your own life to create. Don’t create because you want to but because you have to. If you don’t, some part of yourself will be gone forever. Struggle to reach the shore before that impulse to create is gone forever.
And if you can “trap” that feeling you won’t create just anything; you’ll create something of great value. The phrase “fur-bearing” refers to an animal with a valuable hide.
6. Never point your guitar at anyone
Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.
We tend to underestimate the power of what we make. It is as powerful as a gun. It’s as powerful as lighting. It’s a grenade. It’s a meat cleaver. It’s a hungry tiger. It’s the worst thing someone said to you in high school. It’s an atomic bomb. It’s a bully waiting for you around the corner. It’s a lightsaber. It’s a surgical instrument. It can change the world if we control it correctly, but in its purest form, it can be dangerous.
We’re bringing these powerful forces through, and we have to treat them with the same respect we’d give anything else that powerful. Do not point it at anyone else. In fact, don’t even point it at yourself, that can be dangerous too.
During the act of creation, you’re dealing with pure emotion from the deepest part of yourself. That can be a lot to take. It needs some room before it’s ready for other people. Even for yourself, get some perspective before you observe it. Don’t try to experience it immediately, run outside to hear it, so there’s a wall between yourself and your creation.
However, even then be careful, if you’re still in a vulnerable position that lighting bolt will find you anyway.
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