A few years back, the Police’s guitarist wrote an autobiography called One Train Later. Apparently, had he been on a different Tube train one day, he wouldn’t have bumped into someone, wouldn’t have ended up joining the band, and wouldn’t have had a music career.
The Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davies is about kind of the reverse phenomenon: a Greenwich Village folk singer/guitarist who played the Gaslight the night Bob Dylan emerged out of nowhere and got talent-spotted, but didn’t get picked up and never got anywhere. The film covers the week of that event, and shows Davies homeless, incomeless, playing the odd folk club night, recording session and unsuccessful audition, staying on friends’ and fellow musicians’ sofas and owning little more than a guitar and a box full of remaindered records of his unprofitable album. By the end, he turns out not to have the money to renew the mandatory union membership for going back to his ‘day job’ as a merchant sailor – a particularly cruel irony.
I wonder how long it takes to reach the Llewyn Davies state. It’s all very gradual of course. You don’t just wake up one day having got kicked out fo non-payment of rent, sold all your valuable belongings and exhausted the patience of your friends in the space of the previous weekend. But it’s a slippery slope, and every time you fail to get a financial foundation out of something creative/artistic/independent, the temptation is always to throw a bit more of your resources into it because you can’t be trying hard enough, rather than to maintain your other options and be sure you have a safety net.
Now I’m still making the rent, have a route back to a full-time desk job (and I’m only part-time out of it), haven’t yet gone overdrawn or started selling things (apart from when I ended up with four guitars briefly. I decided two was plenty, it wasn’t about needing the money). But is it bad of me to feel like I’m somewhere near the top of that slope? And I might start sliding down and up hopelessly entangled – but I also have to invest, and not just financially, to stand any chance of return as a sole trader.
Ho hum. It must be coming on winter. Time to plug in the SAD lamp and try to cut back on caffeine (again).