When You’re Out

Paul Simon is done writing music. That’s what the singer-songwriter, who’s had a long career that’s created some of the most essential pop music of the last 50+ years, has declared, saying he felt something just click off and signal that he was done.

That sentiment is similar to comments, reiterated just a few months ago, by Simon contemporary Billy Joel, who hasn’t released an album of new tunes since 1993. Joel said after finishing the “River of Dream” record he felt he was never going to get better as a songwriter and so put down the pen.

Meanwhile, Paul McCartney is still going strong, seemingly still energized by the process of writing, recording and touring. And Prince reportedly was still putting ideas on paper or on tape right up to his untimely passing.

Writing, even the most technical and dry, requires some level of passion and commitment. You have to, in my experience, either be driven to get your ideas out into the world or to use the act of regular writing to make you that much better than you were yesterday. Something has to be behind the impetus to express yourself. There has to be motivation.

So here’s what’s important to remember: It’s OK when that motivation runs dry. Admit when you’re out of words, when you’ve said everything you want to say or have proven whatever it is you set out to. That’s going to happen to some people and their decision and attitude should be respected.

Other people will continue to have that fire in them, that demon at their heels that keeps them going one more mile no matter how far they’ve already come. Good for them, they apparently feel restless if they stay in one place for too long.

It’s a reminder that creativity is not a trait that’s universal across all creators. Some people will churn out three novels a year, others struggle with one and then find it’s everything they had in their heads. The creative impulse is given differently to everyone, both depth and breadth.

All we can do is appreciate whatever it is that’s been put out into the world by others while, as creators, not judging ourselves too harshly if we find that we’ve hit the end of the road, that we’ve successfully outrun the demon, that we’ve drunk all the water allocated to us in our time.

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