I highly recommend reading Irving Stone’s novelized biography of Vincent Van Gogh. An enjoyable read and a guidepost for artists. This final songwriting post is focused on a short scene in the book.
Vincent Van Gogh had spent the past six years supported by his brother and borrowing on the kindness of others in order to fully invest in his own development as an artist. Now in Paris, he had come across the Impressionists and was overwhelmed by how much work he still had ahead of him. Pacing the floor wildly, breaking glasses and trashing his own pieces, he asks his brother, Theo…
VINCENT: “Must I give up? Am I through? It looks that way, doesn’t it?
THEO: “Vincent, you’re behaving like a child…”
VINCENT: “But Theo I’ve let you support me for six long years. And what do you get out of it? ..a hopeless failure on your hands.”
THEO: “Listen, old boy. When you wanted to draw the peasants, did you catch the entire trick in a week? Or did it take you five years?
VINCENT: “Yes, but I was beginning then.”
THEO: “You’re just beginning with colour today! And it will probably take you another five years.”
VINCENT: “Is there no end to this, Theo? Must I go tot school all my life? I’m thrity-three; when in God’s name do I reach maturity?”
Maturity is never about arrival. Every next song, every next album, every new melody or lyric is a beginning. The process of becoming a songwriter is a perpetual process and is only a process; you are always becoming. Success is faithfulness to the process. Maturity is the humble recognition that there is, and will always be, a next step.
This is the last in a series on songwriting. The first is about finishing songs, the second has to do with making bad art until we can make better, the third was about focusing on a specific image and the fourth was a short, anecdotal story.