An intense desire to create, share, and heal through music helped indie music artist Sarah Fimm recover from a debilitating accident and find gratitude for the lessons she learned.
There are times in your music career where temporarily stepping away from the guitar, piano, mic, or mixing board can boost creativity and productivity for you as a musician and songwriter.
Sometimes, though, life separates us from music-making whether we choose it or not. In situations like this, returning to your art can be a powerful step towards healing, particularly after a harsh and unexpected absence.
Meet Sarah Fimm
Based in Woodstock, New York, Sarah Fimm is a singer and multi-instrumentalist. She makes dark, ethereal music Billboard described as “chilling, isolated beauty.” Fimm has released over a dozen albums, toured, licensed her music for film and TV, and is also an active painter.
Several years ago, Fimm’s career and creative momentum took an unexpected turn.
“I was in a pedestrian crosswalk when I got hit by a car and my entire life was immediately changed,” she says. “I was laying in bed barely able to pour myself a glass of water. All I could think was, ‘How am I going to get back to living, loving, and sharing music with others? How am I ever going to get back to a piano and a microphone?’”
Thrown into what she describes as a disorienting and deeply challenging new reality, Fimm kept thinking about music — even as her injuries prevented her from making it.
After several weeks of recovery, a friend brought Fimm a lightweight acoustic guitar that she could begin to manipulate while lying in bed. Before the accident, though, Fimm’s primary instrument was piano.
“I had absolutely no idea what to do with the guitar,” she says. “Still, I was determined to re-integrate music into my life in whatever way I could.”
Committed to learning, Fimm kept the instrument close, even though she was physically unable to do much with it at first. “I was in so much pain, just to have the guitar on top of my body, that I could barely hold onto it,” she recalls. “The first project was just being able to balance the guitar on top of me and try to position it in such a way that I could eventually play it. This took weeks.”
Perseverance paid off, and as Fimm slowly began to recover from her injuries, she connected with the guitar — and making music — as much as her body would allow.
“Finally, I was able to play simple chords that led to songs,” she says. “The next step was to rebuild my muscles so I could sing and play while in bed — and eventually, on stage. My will to exist became inextricably tied to this goal.”
New ideas, new projects
During this time, Fimm had an epiphany about how she engaged with creativity — and other people. Sharing music, she realized, was as important as playing. If she couldn’t do one, perhaps she could still engage with the other.
The catalyst for creativity came in the form of a friend bringing a gift — a giant pile of SD cards and thumb drives — and the challenge to “do something with these.”
Here’s what happened next:
While laying flat one day, I found myself gazing at the cards and drives on the table. A lightbulb went off. I decided to transform them into a project called “The Karma Phala Music Project.” The idea took shape as a collection of music, poetry, photographs, and other content with a personal message for my fans. I then wrote to my most ardent fans to let them know what I was doing.
I told them to contact me directly if they wanted one of these drives, and I would send it right away. I didn’t want to sell it. There was something pure about the idea. “Karma phala” means “fruit of action.” I wanted them to know how much their support had carried me through. The only thing I asked was, once they downloaded the content, that they would share the drive, share the spirit of the project with whomever they gifted it to, and the story of how they received it.
Before long, I started to receive the most incredible stories. One man told me he carried the drive on a ship as he sailed across the sea to meet his love. Another woman told me she took it with her through her child’s surgery, and the music helped her get through it. The stories went on and on. I read these stories every single day detailing the hopes, dreams, and experiences of others. They were deeply personal. Their words imbued my existence with meaning and brought the wind into my sails.
Returning and relearning
Fimm stayed committed, not only to sharing music through “Karma Phala” and regaining her music-making ability, but to refining her skills as a musician as her health and mobility slowly returned.
“As soon as I could sing songs and play simple chords on the guitar, I was able to move and walk a little bit again,” she says. And when her rehabilitation progressed to the point where she could engage with her primary instrument, the experience was momentous.
“After months of recovery, when I was finally physically able to sit on a piano bench again, I found I had gained a new perspective,” she says. “I felt like a child learning how to crawl for the first time. I couldn’t stop writing and creating music after that and have not stopped since.”
The creative momentum continues. “Several concepts I learned on guitar during this period ended up being extremely helpful as I tapped into this new world, exploring countless instruments that I had never had a chance to play,” she says. “The guitar became a stepping stone to other instruments like harp, flute, mandolin, and on and on.”
Music healing the musician
For Fimm, a commitment to music was a lifeline and kept her focused through one of the darkest periods of her life. Returning to art and life became one and the same.
Now active and creative, Fimm embraces a spirit of gratitude, looking both back and forward.
“I’m not sure I’d be where I am if not for this glorious accident. I hope someday to publish the stories of ‘Karma Phala’ in a book. For now, I decided to re-release this project in digital form for 2021. There is no question that this entire journey became my teacher, and I will carry these lessons forward into the future.”
Music can play a healing role for other artists as well. “Never give up. The love of music will always lead you home.”
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Has music helped you persevere and recover from a difficult period in life? Tell us your story in the comments section below.
Artwork by Emily Jayne from www.sarahfimm.com.
Michael Gallant is a musician, writer, and entrepreneur living in New York City. His debut album for the Steinway & Sons label, Rock Rewind, features solo piano reinventions of Pearl Jam, U2, Halestorm, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Radiohead, and more. Read his recent article for the National Endowment for the Arts and follow Michael on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant and Facebook.com/GallantMusic.
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