Passionate Flow: Eddie Van Halen & Me

Continuing my excursion into finding writing inspiration from music, I’ve come across something I knew happened, but had not seen in any rock video before.

Artistic Bliss

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named this Flow.

“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Eddie Van Halen talked about his type of Flow in this BBC article.

“‘When I’m home on a break, I lock myself in my room and play guitar,’ he told Guitar World in 1981. ‘After two or three hours, I start getting into this total meditation. It’s a feeling few people experience, and that’s usually when I come up with weird stuff. It just flows. If you’re a musician you just play until you die. It’s not an ordinary job.'”

Do I Write Until Flow Finds Me? (Or I Find Flow?)

Is that the same for all of us who live with a passion that won’t quit? If we call ourselves writers, are we writing until the day we die? Or are we squandering time procrastinating.

  • It’s not going to be good enough.
  • No one will like it.
  • People will judge me.
  • If I can’t do it well, why do it at all?
  • It sounds better in my head.

Etcetera.

I do not write long enough at one sitting to find Flow very often. It takes major inspiration for me to sit and write long enough to find that space where time vanishes, hunger evaporates, and thirst is absent.

But maybe I don’t have to write a long time at one sitting.

Eruption Flow

Watching Eddie Van Halen in his Eruption video demonstrates how Flow can happen in the middle of 12,000 people and for short bursts of time.

Below is the 13:06 demonstration of (in my quite uneducated opinion) the best guitar solo ever: Eruption.

This specific Eruption is actually several solos strung together. The original was a mere 1:42 on the first Van Halen album Van Halen.

But I am specifically asking that you watch this one because you can see EVH move into Flow and remain there for 2:21 minutes.

Starting a 5:34, you can see he has his eyes closed and a look of peace begins to come over his face.

Cathedral’s Flow

He opens his eyes before he begins playing “Cathedral” at 5:54.

When he gets to 6:07, he curls around his guitar as if he’s making love to it.

As he begins playing the cello section at 6:49, you can see him begin to fall into Flow.

Watching EVH play in general, we can see his joy and oneness with his guitar. For me, in this section, the guitar becomes a visible part of his soul.

At 7:51, the look of peace on his face can only be described as Holy.

Eddie Van Halen Cathedral

Moving Back Out of Deep Flow

At 7:55, we can see him open his eyes again.

That doesn’t mean he was out of Flow because, clearly, many artists are creating with their eyes open, but the less meditative look returns.

It bears mentioning that Eddie was blackout drunk and very high that night. He had no recollection of the concert or the solo that was filmed.

Yet he still seems to have fallen into Flow, not playing by rote as many have suggested. This does not look like a man bored with his performance.

Best Comment Out of 30,000+

Kishanna Conan Doyle says about EVH:

“He’s smiling, he’s happy like a child who has just made his first chord on a baby guitar.
Eddie always smiles when soloing… he wasnt a rockstar, he was a kid with a guitar.”

Message to My Writing Self

What do I take from watching this video more than two dozen times so far?

Instead of looking for Flow, I need to just write and let it wash over me if it wants to. For me, it seems similar to the Muse. If you ask the Muse for a visit, she will stay far away. If you work your ass off, the Muse sees you mean business and descends.

I find a great deal of inspiration from Eddie Van Halen. He played magnificently through drug and alcohol addiction, and then later when he was dealing with several illnesses, including cancer. He did not quit until he had to.

I have to do the same with my writing.

EVH Guitar

End Note:

Despite endless searching, I could not find the exact guitar EVH uses in the above video on that August 27, 1986 night in New Haven, Connecticut. He changed guitars at least once during the show because a string broke on his Kramer 5150 and he then used his Steinberger 5150 guitar. I do not know if he went back to the Kramer 5150 after a re-string. If you know, please comment.

Also, I am not a guitar or music expert, so if I have missed something or written something incorrect, please comment so I can fix the mistake.