A Letter to My Uninspired Self

When you travel all over and play a show a day for a year and make a movie about it, you inevitably learn lessons. But you also have to remember them.

To My Uninspired Self,

How quickly you forget that inspiration doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Sure, some days it might – but those days are rare and usually granted to those who earned it on the countless days when they showed up to find it even when it never came, not to someone who simply feels like they want to be inspired. If there is one thing you should know by now, it’s that inspiration dwells in the in-between moments of struggle and success.

“Success” being a word I say not referring to any metric or praise; it is really just the adult version of the threadbare blue ribbons that eventually get thrown out in some bankers box when your parents decide to move out of your childhood home. No, by “success,” I’m referring to the feeling you have while completely immersed in your purpose – those moments when the rest of the world goes silent and every doubt you had before becomes a distant hum or subtle Wurlitzer organ spinning in the background of what feels like might be the greatest song you’ll ever write. But for some reason you’ve let yourself forget on this late-summer pandemic Tuesday the endless reward and power of showing up – something you supposedly had ingrained in yourself playing one show every day for a year.

And now, after six months in quarantine not being able to do the things you love to do, you’re wilted over some lukewarm coffee trying to muster up the feeling you felt after going “all in” performing music for people for so long. “365 days. Every day, no matter what …” That’s what you kept saying, and that’s what you did. You also filmed every single day and then spent a year making a documentary, sifting through hundreds of hours of footage, rewatching yourself being more lit up than you’d ever been. You gave yourself something to sink your teeth into for three years. You showed up every day to something that kept you from worrying, second-guessing and daydreaming of the person you once were or wanted to be. But now, as you near the end of this three-year uphill battle worth fighting, the film and music are about to come out, and the question hovers over you like some self-conscious vulture: “What’s next?” This is where the importance of a habit comes in. Thirty days into your 365-day tour, you wrote:

“I’m exhausted and the show didn’t go as expected but it was good enough. Good enough to keep going. ‘Thank God for the mornings,’ is what we’ve been saying. The mornings feel like the promise of an empty theatre. Anything could happen. And no matter what, at the end of the day you will feel different. Better or worse, it doesn’t matter. You showed up.”

You were pretty naive at that point … still thinking the tour was going to look very different than it did. But when you look at what you wrote closer to the end, the only difference is that there’s more detail, more understanding of what it all actually meant. In the beginning, you had no idea of the habits you would form over those 365 days. Ignited by the start of something new, and the belief that anything was possible, you got through that first part. You were gonna play every day, film every day, record and put out music every month, post to social media, write daily diary entries, all the while booking the most successful tour ever. So you thought.

But about 60 days in, the honeymoon period was almost over and you began to realize how important it was to simplify things. Focus on one thing, maybe two, and remove the stress of everything else. Otherwise, nothing would be possible. By the end of the tour, you played every single day, with no days off, learned to use a camera, filmed every day, traveled to 14 different countries, trekked across the states a few times, wrote an album’s worth of music, and were a much better version of the person sitting here moping on a weekday at 3 p.m., waiting for inspiration to appear while getting repeatedly lost in your self-doubt.

I’m not suggesting you start another year-long project. But remember that the real magic began halfway through, waking up every day, wherever you were, to whatever situation you had to perform in. You were exactly where you needed to be and treated every show like it was Lincoln Center, even when you were singing for a parking lot attendant or a herd of Swedish cows. Countless doors and hearts opened because you asked the simple question, “Can we sing you a song?” I know the person you are when you’re showing up to something you believe in with purpose. I’ve seen how that lights you up and the people around you. You’re not unique in that way. Seeing anyone live with purpose is infectious and inspiring. So now, on this bluesy, aimless October Tuesday, I’m saying to you: Write down a few words, pick up the guitar, touch the piano, or sing yourself a song. Show up, even if nothing’s there. Let that be the goal. It’s enough for now, and you won’t regret it. And if you do, take a walk, because you might just need a break.

– Your Once Inspired Self

Jim and Sam are a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter-filmmaker husband-wife duo. Raised outside Philadelphia and Dallas, they met at a mutual friend’s comedy show and began making music together a week later. In 2015, they self-released their debut E.P., This is What’s Left, produced in Sweden by Lasse Marten (Lykke Li, Peter, Bjorn & Jon) and in 2019 released their sophomore E.P., Yeah Whatever Young Forever, produced by Dan Molad (Lucius, Emily King) through Nettwerk Records. In 2017, the duo fell into a creative/career rut and in order to pull themselves out they made the decision to play one show every single day for a year, bringing their music to 14 different countries. Hoping to inspire others to embrace and pursue what they are passionate about they crossed over into filmmaking to create the documentary feature film After So Many Days from footage shot during their tour. The film is out on October 20, and the companion album, Songs from After So Many Days (made up of songs inspired by or recorded during their tour), is out now. (Picture by Mike Zwahlen.)