Here is the rest of her quote:
"It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
Oh Martha, thank you. I was mouthing off on stage last week about my songwriting workshops, and the Martha Graham quote that my mother would send me year after year. But, really! It's important. And, do NOT be fooled. We ALL struggle with it. She wasn't kidding about the dissatisfaction, the "blessed unrest." But we wouldn't have it any other way.
And so...I got to work with my crazy pal Eric Bazilian for the last couple of days. We are an odd couple. He's a ridiculously musical rock star, producer, guitar hero dude (Hooters) His motto: "Just remember, 'She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.'"
I'm happiest tunneling down the rabbithole of brooding alt-folk waltzes. The more elliptical and tragic, the better.
When we get together, our motto is "Let's try shit." (keep the channel open!) This week was no exception. I pulled this weird forgotten lyric out of my vault, Eric hooked up his 6 string banjo in one of my favorite Jonatha tunings, ran it through his gnarly chain of overdriven plug-ins, and... BAM. "Mean Looking Jesus" was born. The next day we swung to the other side of the spectrum, and wrote "I got Nothin.'" BAM.
I cannot say this enough times to myself or my songwriting workshop people. (And I KNOW it's NOT easy.) We all hit the wall. We all think we suck. (ask Eric!!) But you show up, keep the channel open, do your work, and then the world can have it.
So, Martha, and Eric, thank you.