Reconnecting With Inspiration
Posted on March 26, 2022 by Scott French
The previous entry in this four part series found me questioning my place in the guitar world and eventually leaving to pursue other endeavors. We pick up almost ten years later when my therapist encouraged me to revisit lutherie looking for some long lost seeds of joy.
I never really stopped thinking about guitars during the time I was away, but with work and family all I really had time for in the guitar world was thinking. Sadly most of that internal dialogue revolved around my failure to get enough traction to keep things going the first time around, but over time that has lessened and I can see the truth of the situation now. Going back to the prior entry, I spent a lot of time considering where I could potentially fit guitar building into my life and where my interests and goals might fit into the guitar market at large. Through research and careful consideration I slowly eliminated options until it didn't seem like guitar building was something I would return to at all.
Sadly most of that internal dialogue revolved around my failure to get enough traction to keep things going the first time around.
I didn't want to outsource my designs to be built in the far east to serve the low end of the market. I didn't want to cut corners to produce instruments in the US to serve the middle market. And I wasn't happy building custom instruments to serve the upper range of the market. So that is basically it, no more guitars. Thanks for listening to my TED talk. Good night!
I wish it were so easy! Walking away from something you really love can be pretty hard (trust me). The big challenge is that I am good at building guitars and have a lot of my identity and self-worth tied up in the work I've done. But for every success and good memory or email from someone saying I've inspired them, there are ten sad or regretful thoughts reminding me of all the failures and telling me that I was never any good. I didn't work hard enough. Piling ten years of this internal dialogue without any actual action on top of the original feelings of failure around the decision to walk away had created a big mess in my head. As much as I still loved guitars, the constant feeling of being a flake and failure made the entire thing exhausting.
Like rich and fertile soil I was amazed that with the tiniest amount of clear space and sunlight new ideas were immediately able to start to growing.
At some point through a combination of therapy and my own desperation I started trying to ignore all the "shoulds" and internal dialogue so I could enjoy lutherie again. There were enough other frustrations in my life so I really wanted to reclaim this thing that I loved so much. I let myself buy some cool instruments, I started spending more time looking at other people's work, I got into pedals and learned about all the interesting things happening there. For a brief time I was able to ignore the those internal voices and found some quiet space in my head. Like rich and fertile soil I was amazed that with the tiniest amount of clear space and sunlight new ideas were immediately able to start to growing.
A lot of these ideas were more complex than anything I had ever tried before with my instruments. Very quickly the "shoulds" were back telling me I needed to focus on making something more general that could appeal to more players and not waste my very limited time on "closet guitars". I wish I could say this wasn't so derailing, but these kinds of thoughts truly do take me far off course.
Ignoring the "shoulds" meant silence in my head, but I had to fill that space up with my own voice if I didn't want the "shoulds" to come back.
Luckily at this same time I was learning another lesson in my life that was very relevant. Being a parent, and a partner in a relationship, and part of a team at my job... like many people I had given away a lot of myself and my time to others. What I needed in all of those situations was a little more selfishness. It's easy to get lost when you give away so many pieces of yourself. The revelation here was in this case guitar building is the thing most for myself. Ignoring the "shoulds" meant silence in my head, but I had to fill that space up with my own voice if I didn't want them to come back. Instead of trying to meet the needs of some of kind of hypothetical guitar person, I needed to meet my own needs.
So now I'm working on instruments for someone like me... Me. A guy in his forties that still looks up original Pro I Dolphins on Reverb, CL, and eBay every single week. Someone interested in technology and woodworking and beautiful things that maybe don't get the attention they deserve. I actually think there are more people like me out there than I ever considered since I poked my head out of my little hole and took a look out at the world. But the nice thing is, I don't have to worry about them. I'm looking back at all the instruments that I've loved over the years, and forward at all the new work I am totally inspired by, then just building for myself. Those people out there that love guitars and basses and lutherie and wood in the same ways that I do will find me. I hope they end up coming along and falling in love with my work too.