Why do you write?
This is a question, surprisingly, that in interviews and otherwise, isn't often posed to me. But it's a question I ask myself constantly. Why do you write? I was sitting in a salon chair recently, when I said to my friend Vicki, "You know how they say, 'you teach what you need to learn'?". I think I sing and write, what I need to feel." She asked me to repeat that, and I knew I'd struck a nerve.
I don't know about you, but I grew up in a house where your two basic emotional responses were, joy and anger; joy expressed in laughter, excitement or sarcasm; anger expressed in held back tears, a raised voice and sarcasm. It was all very passionate and of course other emotions were expressed, but sadness was rarely on the emotive menu. I don't think this is severely atypical. How often in your growing years did you see a grown man or a grown woman cry? How often did you hear an adult say, "I'm feeling sad."? The closest I got to any of this was "Little House on the Prairie". Those people were always bawling about something....
I rest my case.
Even the Waltons, with their gentile, southern reserve, outwardly expressed a larger spectrum of emotion than anyone in my family or most people I witnessed in my midwestern town of Avon Lake Ohio. Were most of us walking around with happy masks on for lack of wanting to "spill" emotionally, or was it that we simply did not know how? Frankly, one probably fed the other. If you don't know how to "spill", you're likely afraid of spilling, so you don't and you never learn how....But that's a long study and I'm not doing a dissertation. But I can tell you what happened to me.
In walked music. When my mother recognized my connection to music, my life's journey as a singer/songwriter took foot. It began with me learning things via music. For instance, when I was 4 years old, I could NOT remember my phone number. The purple construction paper house I had made in Safety Town, hung on the classroom wall tormenting me daily until I could recite my address and phone number. To "get" your house, you had to know both. My brilliant mother put the 7 digits to music and in a lick, the purple house was mine. She and my father bought me my first guitar, enrolled me in and paid for school band and choir and music theory and guitar lessons...God love them! Suddenly I was singing (another brilliant woman, my guitar teacher, Sue Anderson had me do it) while practicing my guitar and a myriad of emotions wafted through the air of our shag green carpeted living room. What a release. I didn't even know it was happening but it was like a drug for me. I was hooked....for life.
Now, when I wonder why I write; why I should bother putting my thoughts into a cohesive form along a musical scale, I am drawn like a moth to the flame, to the feeling that musical expression gives to me. I'm still hooked. After having written and before I share it with anyone, I find the value in it is about the feeling coursing through me as I read it, think about it or sing it. It's a gift hard fought and in spite of hidden emotions. It's what you experience when you work on your creations be it a child, a painted room, a garden, a meal, a clean floor, a work project, a letter to a friend. Isn't all the emotion, beauty and revelation that occurred while you were creating what gives the creation its meaning? Not entirely. There is skill involved (if you don't believe me, mop a floor, do it well and with joy) but part of skill is recognizing emotion and beauty and revelation. The feeling that results from all that is what drives me to write. Writing is daunting, but what a pay off. The rest of my job is about the skill of writing which has 25 years to learn and will take many more. Armed with those skills, I try to write something I feel about, in a way that is clear to you intellectually and more importantly, emotionally. If I can do that, I've done it. It always feels good. Then my job lets me share it with you and that exchange is priceless! Thank you for being a part of it.
Why do you write? I know from talking with many of you at shows and in my life that you do write:
I have a cousin, Corrie, who long ago shared with me the fact that she kept a journal and was constantly writing down her thoughts and feeling.
I have another cousin, Debbie, who handed me pages of her thoughts and feelings in seeing the suffering of teenagers in a mental health facility.
My friend Bill is constantly singing things to me that he's made up. He does this as we sit at lunch, walk down a sidewalk in Gulf Shores LA or drive somewhere together. I love him for it.
My friend Rachel wrote a stunning eulogy for her stepmother, my beautiful friend Nancy Gaillard.
work with children from schools in and around Nashville who have so much to talk about in the lyrics they write for the Country Music Hall of Fame's Words and Music Program.
In all of you are feelings and all of that is energy and energy is what its all about. Everyone's walking around with tons of it. Energy is either weighing us down or lifting us up and it's always begging for release. It doesn't matter if you keep what you write in a journal in a drawer beside your bed or if you sing your song in the shower, or recite your poem to your dog. It matters that you've written it. In that act, you have taken off the mask and let something out into the universe. That's friggin' awesome, just like you and just like...
Charles...or if you're super tough...
that chick never cries but she is peacefully content in her emotions here...sorry for saying "chick"...I'm reclaiming it....Grandpa Walton kicks ass!
I hope you keep writing, however it is you "write" or that if you feel like writing, you will. I assure you, "everybody's got a story, a fall down hard a glimpse of glory..." (from "Train Song").
What's yours (click to share on my blog)?
Here's an announcement that might interest you. I'm teaching a writers workshop!
"We've Got Something to Say About It" is happening this summer at the Avon Lake United Church of Christ (Avon Lake Ohio) and is totally FREE. Below is the invitation with link to registration. This is a writers' workshop for grades 9-12 (the right 7th or 8th grader is welcome). We're going to teach songwriting and prose. My buddy, award winning author, Frye Gaillard, will be driving up from Alabama to teach prose. I'll be teaching songwriting and Pastor, Kelly Brill, our host, is offering, "Writing as Spiritual Practice". 15 is our starting class size so please share this with that young adult who's longing to express themselves and help them register today. There will be a presentation the evening of the second day of "With Music and Justice for All". The show is open to all, and free to workshop attendees and their families. Some of the students' work will be included in the performance. After this goes well, we'll do more, including one for grown ups!
Click photo to register now. Click here to read why we're doing this workshop and to share.
Ok, stay cool, check out my tour schedule, buy some music and I'll see you around the bend.