on discipline, with typos
good morning, greetings from the kitchen table. ash isn’t u yet, neil is snoring above.
this is always the problem…when to make art, and when to make breakfast, and when and how to decide….
how to decide….
how to live.
i woke up this morning with something fully formed that i wanted o say to you, and that was ten minutes ago, and i’ve already lost it.
but it was something like this.
all my life, i’ve struggled with my relationship with discipline and procrastination.
perhaps we all have it bad, man, but i always considered it my personal cross to bear: i am no disciplined. i am not working hard enough. i am not a good enough person/artist. this is a girl who, when she was 21, did a final thesis in college as a kind of performance art piece that involved me stripping down naked in front of an audience of 20 people and flagellating myself with a reel of magnetic tape while an overdubbed chorus of voices 9all mine, of course) screamed at me that i was never going to finish my songs and that i was a lazy piece of shit.
even then, i was making meta art…i mean, i could have taken the 100 hours it took to create that play about my lack of discipline and just…finished the songs. it never occurred to me that the play was, in itself, a finished product and a kind of discipline. i saw it, i suppose, as therapy.
(and fuck i wish i’d filmed that thesis. it was….a thing).
somewhere in my thirties, i simply stopped beating myself up.
about a lot of things, but mostly about my worst habit…my tendency to flagellate myself for “not writing”.
partly, i think, because i just got better at not beating myself up about ANYTHING, because i saw how useless the mental circle of masochism was, and partly, i think, because i saw that there is a certain number of songs the universe can handle.
i don’t have to write every song. i don’t have to write 2 songs a day, or two songs a month. i don’t have to finish every song.
in fact, if i write two songs a day, my life is HARDER. because even my most devoted audience doesn’t want to hear 60 new songs a month.
in fact, i realized after going through a gazillion album cycles, people only want to hear about 12 new songs every two years. that’s what “people want”. well – that was just fucking fine with me.
everybody – including you all patron-types – was pretty much giving me the same message.
we want JUST ENOUGH SONGS, but not TOO MANY SONGS. one record every two years please. any more than that and you’ll exhaust us.
even when i started the patreon and was dleivering a song a month, i felt the fatigue from certain corners.
“amanda when are you going to put out a RECORD?” was a really frequent comment.
and i would be like
*BUT HERE IS A SONG?! WHAT IS IT YOU WANT?? I MADE A THING *commence frustrated artistic weeping*
that all meant that i could write one decent song every couple of months and spend the rest of my time doing other things, like drinking wine and making eggs and cleaning my email and not feeling guilty, or blogging and not feeling guilty, or tweeting and not feeling guilty.
okay, okay. i admit. i still felt a little guilty every waking moment i wasn’t writing a song. that self-hatred lingers. i feel guilty right now. i am not lying. there’s a part of me that’s like: amanda, why not compose? you’re up, everyone’s asleep, you have a piano. why blog? why do this offering of word vomit when you could…
and then my train pf thought stops.
i think a lot of things in this department fixed when i was offered the book deal for “the art of asking”.
i’d always just blogged for pleasure. i’d never been PAID to write. which didn’t have much to do with the money (it’s never about the money, believe me, it’s always about what the money can buy, or what the money represents).
it had to do with the fact that someone from on high had “authenticated” me.
i’m not a writer!, i thought, manically. i’m a sloppy blogger who doesn’t want to capitalize! why are they giving me a book deal?
i knew, by then, though. i knew because i knew. i knew because enough human beings had come up to me, in comments or on the street to say: your words reached me. your words touched me, your written words mattered.
i felt a shift inside:
i’m not just a songwriter. i’m a word writer.
all the words matter: sung, typed, spoken, speeched, poemed.
just get the words out. in some format or other, amanda, just get the words out.
wherever they land, however they land…they may matter…they may reach…someone….
this is why i found it easy to swap over to the voice-rambling a month ago.
i’m still loving it, but for thoughts like this one (and this is indeed one long rambling through and right now i’ve been tying for about twenty minutes without looking back and i still don’t know exactly where this is headed, hooray), i feel like sitting down and being able to press my mental pause button while i write
(which thought is next…..? oh this one)
is the way to go.
there were multiple thoughts i wanted to connect.
one is about time, and one is about wine, and they’re connected.
this record was therapy for me.
in the strictest sense.
there isn’t a song on this album that didn’t patch up a very specific and nagging pothole in the road from my head to my heart.
this record was therapy for me in a way nothing ever has been before; it’s the most honest, the most direct.
and every song was written in some strange circumstance: some hiding in the backyard of a rental house during the darkest days of my life, literally hiding from my husband (“bigger on the inside”), some written in a fit of happy furious self-imposed-timeline in a friend’s borrowed music studio (“the ride”).
recording them felt like a monastic marathon.
i went to john congelton, i didn’t drink for about three weeks, i left my family, i went to bed at 10 very night i went to yoga every morning, i clocked into the studio like an athlete and i simply put the pain on tape (with a lot of help from john and jherek and max).
in a way it was easy. it was three weeks of discipline. i was alone. it was…simple.
but this TOUR, this tour is something different.
writing the songs was one thing. recording them, another.
but now….getting up on various stages all over the word for the next, oh EIGHTEEN MONTHS or so, while also trying to “live my real life” while i go back and forth from those stages….it’s totally disorienting in a way a tour never has been.
and part of it is this: i’ve never been incredibly disciplined around tour….at least by my measure.
tour takes a kind of discipline JUST TO DO IT. the way going on vacation takes time and energy to lan even if you do it badly. you still do it, you still do it badly, you still get on your shitty flight with your shitty plan and sleep in your shitty hostel SOMEHOW. tour is kind of the same way. you still have to get your body to the venue and then your body needs to get onto the stage at 7 pm in that city whether you’ve taken care of yourself, your voice, your preparation…there’s no pausing time, there’s no second chances. you’re sitting there in front of the piano ready to deliver whatever the people came to see, whether you packed the right shit or not.
the dresden dolls toured for so, so, so many years, and then i went straight on the road withWhol Killed Amanda Palmer, and then there wasn’t too much of a break before i toured Theatre is Evil. And i got into a kind of basic routine with endorphins, and stress, and time off, and a craving for relief, and exercise, and food and and alcohol. the alcohol routine is something i’m plotting to blog about….it’s worth it’s own dedicate conversation. maybe each of those things listed it’s worth its own deep dive…note to self.
but the general gist: i made it to every show, i screamed my head off, delivered everything i had, held nothing back ever, and then drank wine and beer to slow down my thoughts…and at 2 am, ate pizza because that’s what showed up for dinner. the fell asleep in a tour bus with the heat cranked surrounded by snoring people.
for most of 2005-2010i was overweight, grumpy, bleary, overweight, mildly hungover every day, my face was pocked with pimples, and i couldn’t concentrate. until i got on stage the next night. then i could concentrate.
the costs for certain things were real. i had to have vocal surgery in 2009 because i simply wore my voice down to the bone. i’d battered and smashed it too hard, and i had developed nodes on my cords. another subject worth it’s own dedicated blog….but the cause and effect was undeniable.
fast forward to now.
i’m going on the road today to play in washington DC and philly. there will be two to three thousand people in those seats, waiting to see what i have to say and sing.
here’s the thing.
i’m back on tour. for the first time since 2013, for the first time since having a kid, in a serious way.
after the show in montreal, a did a signing.
a woman came up to me.
she was crying.
“i’m having a miscarriage. right now…i’m going through it.”
“oh my god”. and i gave her a hug.
and she said
“your show was so powerful and everything i needed to hear right now. thank you thank you.”
and i held her and said
“thank you. that means so much to me.”
i touched her hands. she touched my hands.
and she said
“how the hell are you going to do this show again, night after night?
how will you manage to survive doing this again and again?”
and i said
she got it.
this tour means too much to me to fuck up.
the message is too important to muddy.
the times are too frightening.
it’s just too powerful to fuck up. it’s too good. i’ve worked too hard on it.
i don’t want to disappoint her, you, me.
during the warm-up run, i had a cold. i soldiered through, and i lost my voice about one hour into the very first show in hudson. i could deliver most of the material, but you could feel the strain. i could feel the strain. i was flailing a bit.
the money shots were fuzzy. i couldn’t hit the high notes. i had to expend a ton of mental energy just figuring out how to change things so they would come out of my mouth sounding human.
so now i know: i can’t get a cold. the show will be compromised.
i know that when i don’t get enough sleep, i get a cold. it’s been a pattern that i can set my watch to since i was a teenager. if i go two nights with less than 5-6 hours of sleep, i’ll get a cold as sure as the goddamn sun will rise on day three. don’t get me started about sleep right now…i’ve become like a sleep-happy proselytizing demon from hell about sleep ever since i read Why We Sleep (my most recommended book of the century). worth another blog. but upshot: sleep is not on the list of things i can afford to lose. i need it if my voice is going to recover, i need it if my brain is going to memorize passages for the show, i need it if i’m going to Not Get a Cold.
so i can’t not get sleep. the show will be compromised.
i’ve been dieting for about the past nine months. after i had ash, i felt my body slow down and collect a new kind of flab that i was just not interested in carrying around. after i finished breastfeeding (he was two) i decided that my body would just snap back into the exact shape that it was in pre-baby. hahahahaha. guess what? that did not fucking happen. so for the first time in my life: I WENT ON A DIET. i cut out carbs, fruit, sugar, i limited my booze intake to two glasses of red wine a day, i cut out dairy. i lost and kept off about ten or fifteen pounds. i don’t know how much weight i lost because i didn’t use a scale (but i did, for the curious, measure my waistline. i went for a 38” inshallah waist to to a 34”. all my old jeans fit now, hooray). and more: i just knew i felt infinitely better. the diet i’m on (and i’m happy to share it with you…another blog for later) insists on a weekly binge day. one day a week, i am supposed to stuff myself with calories to keep my metabolism high. pancakes. cream. pasta. fried dough. the works. and i find that i don’t want to put those things in my mouth…because i’m so fucking happy eating my kale and feeling the effects of a clean diet. and i feel it at shows. my body weighs less and has more muscle, so i can move it more easily. its effected my piano playing. i’m better. my arms are stronger and less flabby. my voice is more powerful. i miss muffins. that’s the main thing. muffins are like, my happy place. banana muffin, pumpkin muffin….with coffee…..my eyes glaze over. MUFFFFFFFIIIIINNNN.
yes. i can’t eat shit food. the show would be compromised, and remind me one day to tell you about the first dresden dolls show in philadelphia, twenty minutes before which i was hungry and ate a GIANT BURRITO. an experiment from which i learned deeply. an experiment i never tried again.
pizza may be the only food available near most venues at 2 am, but guess what? indian take-out is available at 8 pm and we can order dinner early. indian take-out all the way.
i have to spend time with ash. if i don’t, i’m a bad mother. that just goes without saying. so whatever time i am not spending on Important Things to Do for tour…i spend with him. he now takes precedence over the other things that used to take precedence: like yoga, meditating, calling my friends randomly. if it means i can spend time with him, i don’t do those other things. the only reason i am able to write this spontaneous blog about discipline is because i went to bed at fucking 9:30 at night and even though my sweet husband kept me up until 11 with his faffing, i managed to fall asleep at 11 and wake up at 7, and ash usually sleeps until about 8, so i’m not on a ticking time-bomb of finishing what i want to say and fucking fast. i had two drinks (manhattans, i’m quite fond of a cold, well-mixed manhattan) at a dinner three nights ago and i’m STILL feeling the pain. when i hit forty something changed…..i can’t drink like i used to, or maybe, i’m finally awake and mindful enough to feel the impact of alcohol on my system, and feel the true cost.
if i’d had three glasses of wine last night, i probably would have slept until 8 this morning, and i wouldn’t have been able to wake up at the ass crack of dawn and i wouldn’t have been able to muse my way to the keyboard to write this to you.
once i get on the road, there are stretched where i have exactly a 5-6 hour window in which to sleep. i know (fuck you, sleep book) that alcholool in my system will mean that my sleep quality will be damaged, i won’t get enough REM, my brain won’t defrag, my memory won’t be as good, and also, i’ll be more susceptible to colds.
i can’t be drunk or hungover. the show will be compromised.
basically, i am going to have to be a total puritan if i want to carry my little message out to the univers.e
that doesn’t sound like any fucking fun.
but i’m not interested in the old kind of fun right now.
i’ve been drunk more times than there are lakes in michgiran.
i’ve stayed up late on twitter more times than there are grains of sand in an hourglass.
i’ve eaten many many MANY muffins.
i’ve shied away from this level of discipline all my life.
i’m interested in changing in the world right now.
i’m interested in touching hands with that woman going through the miscarriage.
when i see her face, it means more than a muffin, more than a manhattan, more than anything.
that’s fun, isn’t it?
you bet your fucking ass it is.
see you in DC tomorrow, motherfuckers. or in philadelphia on saturday.
all tour dates below. for fucks sake, come.
p.s. this blog is 2905 words, took me and my little fingers 1 hour and 22 minutes to write at the kitchen table
and had no copyeditor….please forgive any typos or phrases that don’t make sense. in fact, feel free to point out any typos in the comments. i’ll fix things for posterity. I AM A BUSY MOTHERFUCKER AND I’D RATHER PUT UP A FUCKING BLOG FULL OF TYPOS THAN PUT UP NO FUCKING BLOG AT ALL if you’re getting y drift here and check me out this little rant brought my blog to a nice, round 3,000 words.
p.p.s. ash is still asleep thank christ
p.p.p.s. neil just woke up, i see him TWEETING. time to go read some dr suess to a three year old
i love you all. comment away. i’m reading.
tour dates, all tickets at:
Fri Apr 5 – Washington DC – National Theatre
Sat Apr 6 – Philadelphia – Temple Performing Arts Center – Lew Klein Hall
Fri Apr 12 – Chicago – The Chicago Theater
Sat Apr 13 – St. Paul – O’Shaughnessy Auditorium
Fri Apr 19 – Boston – The Orpheum
Sat Apr 20 – New York – Beacon Theater
Fri May 10 – San Francisco – The Warfield
Sat May 11 – Los Angeles – The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Fri May 17 – Atlanta – Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Sat May 18 – Nashville – Ryman Auditorium
Thu May 30 – St. Louis – The Pageant
Fri May 31 – Kansas City – Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland
Sat Jun 1 – Denver – Paramount Theatre
Thu Jun 6 – Vancouver – Chan Centre
Fri Jun 7 – Seattle – Paramount Theater
Sat Jun 8 – Portland – Crystal Ballroom (SOLD OUT)
Sun Jun 9 – Portland – Crystal Ballroom (JUST ADDEd)
Wed Sep 4 – Netherlands – Amsterdam – Meervaart
Fri Sep 6 – Germany – Berlin – Admiralspalast
Wed Sep 11 – Germany – Munich – Kongressaal
Fri Sep 13 – Germany – Offenbach – Capitol
Sat Sep 14 – Austria – Vienna – Konzerthaus
Sun Sep 15 – Austria – Graz – Stefaniensaal
Wed Sep 18 – Germany – Stuttgart – Theaterhaus
Thu Sep 19 – Germany – Essen – Colosseum
Fri Sep 20 – Belgium – Antwerp – De Roma
Tue Sep 24 – Germany – Hamburg – Laeiszhalle
We Sep 25 – Germany – Leipzig – Haus Auensee
Thu Sep 26 – Czech Republic – Prague – Hybernia
Fri Sep 27 – Luxembourg – Luxembourg – Conservatoire
Sat Sep 28 – France – Paris – Bataclan
Fri Oct 11 – Denmark – Copenhagen – Bremen Teater
Sat Oct 12 – Sweden – Stockholm – Södra Teatern (SOLD OUT)
Wed Oct 16 – UK – Bexhill – De La Warr Pavilion
Sat Oct 19 – UK – Cardiff – St David’s Hall
Sun Oct 20 – UK – Cambridge – Corn Exchange
Wed Oct 23 – Ireland – Cork – Opera House
Thu Oct 24 – Ireland – Dublin – National Concert Hall
Sat Oct 26 – Ireland – Belfast – Ulster Hall
Sun Oct 27 – Ireland – Limerick – Univeristy Hall
Frin Nov 1 – UK – Dunfermline – Carnegie Hall
Sat Nov 2 – UK – Glasgow – City Halls
Sun Nov 3 – UK – Manchester – Albert Hall
Mon Nov 4 – UK – York – Opera House
Thu Nov 7 – UK – Newcastle – Tyne Theatre
Sun Nov 24 – Portugal – Braga – Theatro Circo
Thu Dec 5 – UK – London – Union Chapel (NEARLY SOLD OUT)
Fri Dec 6 – UK – London – Union Chapel (SOLD OUT)
Fri Dec 13th – UK – London Union Chapel (JUST ADDED)
——THE NEVER-ENDING AS ALWAYS———
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