Talking About Yourself as an Act of Service to Humanity

I used to be a songwriter.  That was last week.  This week I’m a regular writer.  No melodies this time.  I dabble in both but if I had to pick I think I’d rather write books than songs.  ‘Cuz I can’t remember songs for the life of me.  They come and go so fast it’s hard to get attached to them.  And songs are supposed to mean more than that I’m thinking.  And not that I know how to write books..

I’m not against music.  I love it.  But I don’t even know if I’m a real musician.  Maybe I’ve just been doing an extended impression of one.  I’ve always felt a little fake about it.  And maybe there’s always something fake about singing songs.  I don’t know.  Is it an act or is it real?  What does it even mean?  How much should people love you or hate you for it?  I don’t know.  I don’t wanna know.  That’s why plain old writing is so nice to me.  You don’t have to look your audience in the eye.  You can just go off on your tangents and let your nerdiness rip.  What could be better?

I think it’s partly my control freakiness.  I like to get immersed in my work and learn how all the parts fit together.  I like to invent imaginary things and then figure out how to live in them.  Does that sound strange?  Yes.  Yes, it does.  But it’s satisfying in some way that could help guarantee my singleness for a while.

When you vacillate between writing songs and regular writing your brain goes through something.  Writing songs to sing has a trick to it.  You are gonna HAVE TO SING those things someday.  And just that thought can be a creativity killer because it’s a lot of bonus stuff to have to do.  What I mean is that being a performing singer/songwriter is tough because once you write the song (where some jobs would be over) then you have to find a way to record it. And then the real work begins.  You’ve gotta practice that song and then play it repetitively in front of people.  And after that you’ve gotta do it in front of other people in other towns.  And it’s not just one song.  You’ve gotta memorize and repeat like 10 songs or more.  And when you sing them you have to pretend as if it’s the first time you ever sung them and that it’s an amazing experience every single time.

Wouldn’t that freak you out!!

Regular writing is awesome.  Like, when I’m done with this blog all I have to do is post it and go watch TV and that’s the end of the story.  I don’t have to memorize it so I can sing it 20 times later on in 20 different cities.  I can forget it.  Which…. oh man… being allowed to forget what you wrote… that’s like Heaven to a writer, man.  No songs locked into your brain.  No feeling like a human karaoke machine.  No feeling guilty ‘cuz you can’t remember 50 songs you wrote.  It’s pure weightless bliss.  An empty brain, man.  Good grief, what more could you dream to have?  What a relief.

That’s what gave me a headache back when I used to be a songwriter.  You have to use up valuable brain space to store all of these various chord progressions.  Seriously, there are drawers inside my brain (metaphorically speaking) with this information:  “G C Em D (6X) then G D Am7 C (2 X) (repeat 1st chord group) (repeat 2nd chord group) precede intensely to C D C D C D D7 D7 (X4) then return more explosively than earlier to 2nd chord group (2X) end on G, let ring authoritatively”.  And that’s just the music part.  On top of that there are words that may or may not sound like a completely different song with a completely different chord order… and here’s where my brain turns to mayonnaise.

And then you’re expected to perform these thoughtfully-worded chord groupings in front of people as entertainment.  So you’re back by the medicine cabinet unloading Advil into your mouth to help you deal with all this stuff.  And if you forget to smile at strangers during this whole process, well the whole thing just went bust, thank you very much.

And don’t get me started on playing in a band.  It’s all this stuff multiplied by however many people you’re playing with.  And they all have schedules and families and friends who you might meet for 5 seconds at a time and of course never remember their names or relational significance to your fellow band members who are ideally supposed to be your best friends though these relationships seem to evolve to more resemble coworker relationships than anything.  An outside “fan person” comes up and speaks positively about the bass player you are deeply annoyed by and you smile and say, “yeah, that guy’s awesome!”  Yeah, whatever..  You spent the entire previous night wishing he’d fall out of the van.  But today you’re singing his praise because.. because… because… well, it’s just not worth it.

Yeah, so I’m not a songwriter anymore and I was gonna say that I’m very introverted now.  I like to stay inside houses for days (weeks) on end.  I like to stay up until 8 AM every day and wake up at 4 and then stay on a computer connected to the internet for 10 hours.  And I also like to watch 3 TV shows and read things and talk to myself about how valuable my life will be in the long run though it would appear to someone looking on that I am “wasting my life away”.  But I wonder sometimes how many hours a day writers spend feeling annoying and redundant.  I mean, I’m at a point where I’m having a hard time believing any listener could not be exhausted by the sound of my writing voice.  In all seriousness, I’m like a guy who’s been standing in the same place talking nonstop as if whatever he’s saying is worth being said.  And that kind of person is IRRITATING, right?  Who wants to listen to a never ending blabbermouth?

The secret hope a writer has is that he or she will be ignored.  That’s the idea.  You write so that you can be identified as a writer, ‘cuz what’s cooler than that?  But you try to make it so that EVERYBODY knows that you’re a writer but NOBODY knows what you write.  That right there is the pure fulfilling artistic oblivion we all secretly want.  Respect me for what I do but leave me alone and don’t actually listen to me…. yeah.  Where’s the tattoo gun?

You guys all better be very thankful that I’m deeply afraid of annoying you.  Because that fear in me is saving ya’ll from some serious, serious inner geeky burn I could give you.  See, I’m modest.  I don’t wanna overwhelm anybody.  I don’t wanna overstay my welcome (especially on my own blog!).

My writing voice is in the first person.  I say “I” more than every other word.  Have you noticed that?  My original reason for that was because I thought it would be easier for an audience to identify with me (if I sounded like a person).   But over time it’s made me wonder if really I’m just an extremely self-centered person.  I wouldn’t argue any accusation of that.  But I like to think of my self-centeredness as a conscious artistic decision made out of respect for my audience, to make it all go down easier.

I used to refer to myself in my writing and the “I” wasn’t really me but a fictitious version of me.  It was me pretending to be more self-centered.  But yeah, I don’t think it’s an act anymore.  Now I’m completely aware that I’m self-centered for real.  Now the work is about how to make good of that reality.  Hmm… how can you make always talking about yourself an act of service that would benefit the rest of humanity that isn’t sitting in the same room 7 days a week?

Wow, good question.

Thanks, Jeff.

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