“I think there are three points to this anecdote: one, criticizing someone is easy; two, creating something original is very hard; three, but somebody’s got to do it.” —Haruki Murakami
Sometimes, the blank page just mocks you. The creative process can be frustrating and wholly unforgiving. But we stick it out because we have to. Somebody’s got to write the pieces we read, somebody’s got to make the music we listen to, and so on and so forth. There is a sense of duty that comes with the creative process. We are bound to our craft in beautiful and toxic ways alike. When you have to write, but nothing comes to mind. When you have to create but you cannot do anything with your hands, that is the ultimate kiss of death.
There is nothing more frustrating than living inside your desire with no recourse in sight. But “somebody’s got to do it,” as Murakami so eloquently puts in his latest New Yorker interview. And that impetus to do paired with the vastness of desire, paired with the frustration of being trapped within desire all coalesce into one of the stickiest feelings in the creative world. Creative frustration is unique and taxing, the furthest from becoming, and the antithesis of the exhaustion that hustle culture so glamorizes. There’s an art to this type of frustration, as in, there is an art to creating through your frustration.
Of all the music to drop so far in 2019, perhaps no one captures this frustration better than Compton’s Boogie, who in one song (“Skydive”) showcases this emotion with an apt candor and imperfection. In fact, it is Boogie’s imperfection across his album, Everythings For Sale, that gives it such replay value. Notes of cheating on his woman (“Silent Ride”), of struggling with his money and mental state (“Tired/Reflections”), permeate the album and show him to be very flawed to the point of endearing us to him (“Self Destruction”). He is never the villain, but rather an honest everyman with the words to express how impossible it may become to simply get by.
“I heard your commitment can turn to a sickness that I never seen, mmh / And for sure ain't no cure, shit, I hope ain't no cure, uh / If I told you my symptoms was trippin', don't fault my conviction” —Boogie, “Skydive”
“Skydive” succeeds because the song is very much so about the obsession that comes with passion, and how that obsession can drive us into madness when we have no release. The absence of catharsis is damning, and what the opening verse of “Skydive” captures is that very damnation. The sickness Boogie refers to is the trapping feeling of desire. The more fierce our want for something, the more it plagues us and feels like an irreproachable illness. To write is to be sick with something wonderful, is to always be in throes of an expedition of one. Few things are as rewarding as constructing a long sentence, but in the same turn, few things are as killer as having not a sentence to your name.
We love the thing that hurts us, and the opening bars of “Skydive” speak to that expressly. When Boogie admits to his pain but wishes there is no cure, that is nothing if not the simple truth of being an artist. To pursue something that is a double-edged sword is to accept that we will be cut, and Boogie uses “Skydive” as a moment to reflect on his frustration while also accepting that it is a part of his creative journey and he would not take that wound away if it meant he would be without his passion. We are working in the realm of compromise and understanding. We are working through frustration to arrive at a greater truth.
“Love how this passage ain't safe, why / I swear I'm sure of the unknown, of the unknown / May this storm pass us never / And we redefine gravity and let this fall last forever” —Boogie, “Skydive”
But there’s some thrill to it, too. Hustle culture tells us that when we suffer for our hard work, we are noble. And the lack of safety Boogie acknowledges is that very suffering. When you are working tirelessly at something that is simply not coming together, that exhaustion in itself breeds frustration. Yet, since we see the taxing as honorable, we feel this impetus to keep working despite obviously needing to step away from the work. The frustration grows, but Boogie is able to find some joy in these moments. Wanting his fall to last forever, wanting to always be in the eye of the storm, speaks to this need to experience struggle in art in order for the art to be worthwhile.
Is it true that there is no art without pain? No, of course not. But is it also true that the pieces you create once over a hump feel all the more satisfying? Absolutely.
The ways in which frustration pushes and pulls us live within “Skydive.” Frustration is the necessity of creation, but it is a natural byproduct. The necessity exists beyond the hardship, exists as the movement through. On “Skydive,” Boogie moves through and makes something of his movement. That’s the art of frustration: transformation. The function of frustration is that of an ingredient to be broken down and mixed in. There is no promise that it will be easy, but the breaking and mixing must be done, else we will never get a final product worth writing home about. As Boogie wades through the unknown, we get the sense that he will overcome because he is confident in his creation, despite the weight of frustration.
“You can never be sure, uh / I just hope we mean more,” Boogie warbles to close out the song. Sometimes art is made upon hope and a prayer, and sometimes that is all we need to work through what ails and make something universal, as Boogie did with “Skydive.” Creating something original is damn near impossible, and when facing the wall, it is easy to get dejected. But as it turns out, we do mean more, because somebody’s got to, and so it is written.