A difficult quality to define, of course. Some people have it, and you occasionally get to spend a bit of time with those people. It's a privilege to be in that sort of presence. You can't put your finger on it, because if you could, it wouldn't be mojo, it'd be something else. Some things have it. For example, some of my guitars are competent instruments which play well and sound good, but some of my guitars have something else entirely. In a lot of cases, they're not the ones that are easier to play, or the ones that it's easy to get a good sound out of. They're just the ones that demand to be played. The best explanation I can give for it in that limited context is that some instruments just leap out at you, whether that is on the wall in the shop or in the house. Those ones that you can feel music in, the ones that just do something every time you pick them up. I'm not a good enough player to deserve one of these, in all honesty, but I do notice it both when it's there and when it's not.
What is all this rambling about? I've noticed that my desire to give up on the anti-depressants could be couched in those terms. They were robbing me of whatever mojo I thought I had, in a lot of contexts. I haven't written a lot of good music, or a lot of creative writing, and I put the blame for that on the tablets. Well, perhaps they were not so guilty. It turns out that for me, depression is a viciously cyclic thing that takes away my ability to write, my interest in playing, my desire to do things that are entertaining purely for the sake of it. One example that I have given before is going to the swimming pool with my children. When I'm at peace, I enjoy that for the pure nonsense that it truly is, an escape that has no purpose, no end point, just an hour of fun. And that's what I was missing from the playing and the writing. A sense of fun. I have a feeling that my mojo left me not because I was relying on citalopram, but rather that I was relying on citalopram because I'd misplaced my mojo and couldn't find it.
So where am I looking for it? Well, it's a daft thing, but I have found that learning new types of music - gypsy jazz, country, whatever - is enough to get me back into the swing (!) of playing just purely for the sake of it. I won't ever pick up the guitar to do a Django Reinhardt gig, because I don't think I'll ever be good enough and I don't really think anyone would be that interested in hearing my limited interpretations of the style. But I have got something out of it. It tests the fingers and the melodic sense in a different way. It places new demands on me as a player, and I can't just run through my best licks to show off because they don't fit. Likewise, I have allowed myself to diversify in my writing, looking at projects that have been on the back burner for a long time for various reasons. Letting those characters exist in my imagination, even at the expense of a slow-down in the progress on book IV of These Matters, has put me in a better mood. The coincidence of restarting the anti-depressants is notable, and I might be tempted to say that the tablets are just giving me the 'breathing space' to be creative again. But it's not a simple matter of one leading to the other. I thought I was making a positive choice in giving them up. It turned out that I was blaming them for crippling a side of me that, in reality, they were not responsible for. My fingers are firmly crossed that I don't need them forever, but my head says that I need them now. We shall see, I suppose, but be assured that for the moment, I am content. The limited amount of peace available to a teacher (in these strange times) and parent (whenever) means that I have to take it where I can find it, as I have while writing this post.
There is always hope. And, indeed, Hope. And, if you look at it the right way, you can always just about avoid being beyond Hope.
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When to the sessions of sweet silent thought