One of my favorite artists ever is J. Cole. The reasoning as to this is another story for another day. But it was important to note that as an aside going into this post. His sophomore album Born Sinner is still my favorite album. There hasn’t been a project that I’ve followed more closely to this day. Every interview, I watched. Every song, I know word for word bar for bar…the whole flow (Soulja Boy voice).
Outside of Born Sinner being a musical staple in my life. A lot of gems Jermaine dropped during his press run for the album release remain with me today, almost nine years later. At 27 years old, I’m not as in tune with Cole’s music or any music for that matter, anymore. However the things 18 year old me picked up from Cole’s sophomore effort will forever be important to me.
When explaining how the ideas and songs for the album came to be. Cole spoke candidly about being stuck. Not being able to find a direction for his second album. Rightfully so, considering many new artist flop on their second album. The sophomore curse is real. So having an impeccable mixtape run, a successful first album and the weight of the world on his shoulders. I can only imagine the pressure he felt when it was time to do it all over again. I remember watching an interview he did about the writing process for Born Sinner in which he mentioned that he just forced himself to write, no matter what came to mind, he just wrote. This is called stream of consciousness writing. He attributes the technique to a book he read called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I had been introduced to the technique in highschool during an English class. The teacher would give us 5 minutes to write at the beginning of each class. And we were told to write whatever came to mind so long as we filled the page. I developed the habit of journaling daily using that same technique. I didn’t do it immediately, it wasn’t until I graduated that I even picked up the habit of journaling. Journaling has done wonders for me. Clearing out my subconscious as well as a means of reflection, one of my favorite things to do is read my old journals and see what was on my mind at the time and how many of my goals and aspirations that I wrote have come to fruition. Stream of consciousness writing is apart of my core make-up. When I heard Cole mention it in that interview, my eyes lit up. Was one of my favorite artists on the same wavelength as me? Was this confirmation that this habit that I’ve been doing for all these years, something special? Indeed it was. Whether or not it was a coincidence or confirmation, I chose to believe what I wanted to at that moment in time.
I don’t do much reading anymore. Or much journaling. And I feel that I’m doing myself a huge disservice. As I’m growing more and more into myself and allowing this coming of age. The growing pains I’m witnessing are extremely heavy. I always wrote, in some capacity of life. When I read stories I felt should’ve gone a certain way, I’d rewrite them. One of the reasons I got into making music was because I felt songs I listened to should’ve been written different. I haven’t consistently written since 2020. I can blame the pandemic and the shaking up it did to the world. But the reality is, writing set my soul on fire. Expressing my creativity through words is so engrained in my being that when I don’t do it, I feel empty. That emptiness is paradoxical in nature because you’d assume, that since I’m NOT writing, I’d be full of ideas, thoughts, emotions, etc. But as a matter of fact, the emptiness comes from the lack of novelty that writing brings my soul. My once beautifully expressed words turn into complete nonsense via word vomit. My habit’s have become practically non-existent, and the ones that I do maintain are no good for me. I overindulge in pleasure, I oversleep and I overthink. My mind body and soul craves creative release.
When I wrote frequently and expressed my thoughts and feelings through song or blogging, a seed was planted in my mind, I watered it in silence, nurtured it as it festered in my soul and facilitated it’s growth inside of my by tending to it. Once that seed grew into something I felt was ready to live on its own. I would release it. For the world to see or not to see. Either way, it was written, recorded or expressed in some way. What this did was allow the soil in my soul to remain full of life, constantly being used, dug up, tended to. The euphoria I felt from constant creativity made me see the world in such an amazing light. When that constant movement in your minds garden slows down or even stops, the soil becomes lifeless. Hardened, dark and desolate. Every so often you look at your garden with a glimmer of hope. You vow to start planting again and tending to your seed. But is it too late? Has the soil become so unusable that nothing will grow? Maybe you move to another garden, maybe you dig up the soil and lay new soil or take the old soil to a new environment to see if that brings it life. I once read that your body goes through a sort of metamorphosis every 7 years. It could be that, I’m not the same person I was up until 21, at now almost 28 years old. That which once brought me pleasure, no longer does. Or maybe I just haven’t been tending to my garden. My streams of consciousness have simply been lying so dormant that they’ve become stiff. Either way, I’m deciding to at least give my garden one last shot. Let’s see where it goes.