Dirt Honesty: Songwriter's Journey

I'm on a highway in a city.  Its treacherous.  The road moves dramatically up, down, and around tight curves.  I'm moving at gut-wrenching speeds in order to keep up with traffic and it feels as if I might loose control at any moment.  There is no ground, only the highway suspended in mid air.  If I should veer ever so slightly I will plunge down into the unknown.  I'm unsure of where I'm going, so I frantically look at signs, trying to determine my course.  My heart is racing and I'm overwhelmed. 

Then I wake up and the anxiety of this recurring dream lingers for a moment. 

Anyone else been there? 

Either I play too much Mario Cart with the kids or I have some deep seeded fear of this journey I'm on and my subconscious is trying to tell me to get off the road.  

It hasn't been successful, yet.

I'm equal parts pessimism and optimism about this plunge into life as a singer/songwriter. 

There's the critical/expert side to myself that says I'll never be good enough to "make it," that all my decisions for sustainability are bad, and that my songwriting skills are as exciting as a pancake without blueberries or syrup. 

I knew this would be hard.  And, it is.  And, for most musicians, its getting even harder.  As people find new (free) ways to interact with artist's and their music, the way in which us "middle class" (meaning not celebrity) musician's make a living and interact with our audiences has to be reinvented. Frequently. 

But, the bottom line is is that I'm not in it for the money - I love doing this - however; sustainability is practically necessary and can be a positive motivator to get oneself in front of an audience.  As a result, one has to think about it, and I do.  Sometimes more than I should.  I'm like the disciples who asked Jesus what the heck they were supposed to do with the 4,000 HUNGRY people that were gathered to hear Jesus speak.  They wanted to send the crowd away because they had just a meager supply of bread.  This is AFTER Jesus had already fed the 5,000+ with just a few loaves and fishes.  As if He couldn't do the same thing again?  How stupid where they?  How stupid am I?  As if God can't provide like He always has.  My job is to simply respond to His prompting (and hungry people).  He can take care of details - like math that doesn't quite add up. 

Getting in front of people (bookings) is also a challenge.  There are so many (fantastic) musicians, so few venues/places, and audiences that have vast amounts of choices of who they want to listen to and how.  Plus, I'm an unknown and its hard to take a chance on an unknown.  I'm grateful for new and exciting venues in which to play - from house concerts to online concerts to self-created tours in community centers and churches.  Its just a lot, and I mean a lot, of work!  

Then I think about all the wonderful, life-giving opportunities I'm given each and every month (and week) and I'm reminded that this is all worth it.  That I'm living out of a deeper purpose.  That, as in all things, this shouldn't be about me, but that it should be about reaching out to others in ways I could have never imagined.   

This morning, I spent time with two women at the Olmsted County Detention Center.  I'm listening to their stories and pulling out pieces to collect into a short story, poem or song.  I'm inspired by their journeys and have learned that we aren't all that different from one another.  That given the right set of circumstances, any one of us could be any one of them.  I hope to be able to share what they have to say, soon. 

At the Next Chapter Fundraiser (with Mark, bass ex·tra·or·di·naire)

At the Next Chapter Fundraiser (with Mark, bass ex·tra·or·di·naire)

Last Friday, the band and I performed at the Next Chapter Fundraising dinner.  It was inspiring to hear stories of lives transformed and to be part of a greater collective of people who truly care about those affected by crime.  Awesome things are happening in our community! 

Later today, I get to visit the memory care unit at Madonna Towers.  What wonderful time spent with these women who seem to cherish hearing songs from their past.  Hymns that I hope speak to their spirits in ways we don't understand. 

Next week, I will spend time on two different units at Saint Marys Hospital.  One unit is incredibly challenging as it is a lock-down unit that treats people with mental illness, addictions, and court orders to be there.  I never know what to expect and I often feel under-qualified and over my head when it comes to interacting with these patients.  However, music seems to have the ability to transcend all of that and we always have a positive time together. 

I'm also grateful for the people who encourage me to keep going.  People that believe in me and what I'm doing.  People that have inspired me to live bigger than my dream.  To see beyond what I could do in and for myself, but rather, to see the opportunities that speak into other people's lives a life-giving message.  That's way more powerful to me than simply pursuing the next big thing or how to be the next big thing.  I don't think that would have ever been enough. 

Then, when I can steal away the minutes or hour, I sit down with paper, pencil and piano and write.  Sometimes the words and music seem to happen as if I were simply breathing.  Other times I have to pull and pull and in the end realize my effort has produced nothing.  Either way, the doing of it provides a great sense of...of...of...purpose, meaning, pleasure, satisfaction....something that compels me to keep going.  Sure, I could write and keep it all to myself, but now that I've started I don't want to hide it all away. 

Maybe I'm just in a place of healthy balance.  Realistic yet motivated.  Cautious yet driven.  Disappointed yet determined.  Overwhelmed yet purposeful.  That if I was one or the other I'd be stuck in a rut with no place to go.  Maybe all those seemingly negative thoughts/feelings are really the cat litter in the snow-drift of life - providing traction.  (Okay, sorry for that, but if you've been in Minnesota this winter you'd have nothing but bad winter analogies, too). 

Do you find yourself in a place where you feel a similar type of dichotomy?  Do you ever question what it is that you are doing?  Or maybe you've landed in a place where you feel completely empowered in what you're doing?