Welcome to the latest issue of Subtle Maneuvers. Previously: Sybille Bedford’s squandered years (and their resolution!)
Nick Cave (b. 1957)
Last week was the Australian musician’s 64th birthday, which gives me an excuse to share one of my favorite artists-at-work quotes in recent memory, published in the New York Times in 2014:
As far as work goes, I’m something of a megalomaniac. But a megalomaniac with extremely low self-esteem.
I imagine some of you are grinning in recognition. Personally, I love the idea of embracing one’s low self-esteem as a creator. So much of the art/literary/music world has always run on bravado; it’s nice to think we could all just stop flexing, or pretending to flex, our outsize confidence and self-regard.
And there’s a nice tie-in here with my favorite subject of routines—they’re a great accompaniment, or maybe even a kind of antidote, to low self-esteem. If you don’t have tremendous confidence in your work, all the more reason to try to automate the process, to do it according to a predictable schedule from which you don’t deviate, lest the whole fragile enterprise collapse.
Here’s Cave describing his songwriting routine, via his wonderful newsletter the Red Hand Files. (Thanks to Kevin M. for alerting me to this last summer.)