JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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The paradox of the red sailboat.

I live right above a harbor and in it there is a red sailboat. Every time I see the boat, and I mean every time, I think about how it would make such a perfect photograph: a red boat against the blue water, singular, simple, pure. But such a photograph eludes me.

And the feeling I get as I stare at the sailboat — knowing the photograph the boat could become — is the same feeling I get when I look at lyric fragments, and know in my heart the songs they could become. Both the boat and the lyrics are right there in front of me, taunting me with what their potential, yet they always elude me, leaving me frustrated and inspired all at once.

But I know what I need to do. I need to approach both boat and fragment with true intent.

For the red sailboat, I need to start watching the clock and observe the time of sunset, and thereafter for several days in a row, weather permitting, I need to walk down to the water with my camera, zoom lens and tripod, and get set up a little early, maybe 15 minutes before the gloaming begins, and when the light is right, I need to shoot and shoot and shoot. And repeat.

The same is true of my lyrics. At some point, I need to pick a fragment — the fragment that stands out for whatever reason — print it out, pour myself a tall glass of fizzy water, and grab The Maton (all hail!) and a pen and get to work, deliberate, focused work, and then go until I can’t go anymore and if I have nothing, I need to do it again and again and again.

In the end, there will be a photograph of the sailboat, a good photograph in which most anyone can see that I see — and more — in the real life scene. There will also be a song. And despite all my intent, both will most likely be the result of some sort of accident. I will have tried something, out of desperation I suspect, that opened a door in the wall that separates inspiration from art.

And that’s the paradox of the red sailboat. Namely, the creation of art demands intent, yet intent, in the end, is rarely the flash that leads to art.