Last night, I returned from Kansas City to Nashville and, upon depositing my suitcases at home, put a beer in my purse and drove to my old apartment to clean before my lease is up. And as I sipped on Red Hook and Swiffered the floors, I thought of what I’ve been learning about writing.
I thought about how writing songs is like working on a jigsaw puzzle, turning a piece this way and that, trying to figure out how it might fit – and when it doesn’t, trying it in a different place. Sometimes I start with the edge pieces and work my way in; other times, I begin with the lower left-hand corner and have absolutely no idea what might be forming… until suddenly, with a single certain piece falling into place, the big picture is made clear. That is an exciting thing – the brief moment of warmth in an otherwise desolate landscape.
I thought about how there is an art to attempting to live buoyantly and passionately, yet still having eyes to see and words to tell of darkness and hurt – for that is so much of the world that we live in, and it’s important that writers tell the truth. My favorite songs are sad ones; how can I write sad songs and still be a healthy and contented person? I want to figure that out.
I thought about how miraculous a privilege it is to birth something into the world, to bring forth a scene, a song, an emotion, and then step back and view it – something where there once was nothing.
I thought about how the practice of writing has made me more aware, more observant, with quivering ears attuned to any truth worth telling. And I thought about how the biggest gift that writing has given me is a greater appreciation for other people’s astounding words. I’m a better reader. I’m a better listener. And I love good songs even more than I did before.
But then I thought about how Stephanie called me out of the blue one day, and told me that something I had written brightened her otherwise dreary afternoon. And I had the distinct feeling that if my words could make a small-town Colorado housewife smile, then I was on the right path.
And I thought about the time that Duane encouraged me to change one of my songs – to revisit it, to perhaps rewrite part of it. And when I listened to his advice and did it, it WAS better. I became a better writer.
I thought of the card waiting in my mailbox last night from the friends saying, “We believe in you,” and how those words are worth more than any amount of money.
And I thought about all of you, continuing to land on this blog day after day, even when you know it’s a weekend and I won’t be writing, even when all I talk about is hair dye and shower curtains and bra shopping, even when I feel sorry for myself and am convinced that the sky is falling… you listen: strangers, many of you, giving me a moment of your attention each day. I am so grateful – because your permission that I be a person in process has given me the freedom to grow.
Writing is the only thing that I know I want to do for the rest of my life (that, and get as many shoulder rubs as I can). And I suspect that the more that I write, the more I will figure out that the real value lies in the doing of it. Even if nothing ever “happens.” Even if there is never a song published, or a book released, or a memoir read aloud on “Oprah.” I’ll be glad for the moments spent writing, stringing words together like beads on a thread – for it is in these moments that I feel like I might actually be living up to something.