One of the scariest things for me is writing my own songs. This is where all my gremlins and negative inner voices pop up real fast.
You may know that my whole singing journey has been a journey through fear towards love. Have I shared that with you before? Probably here and there. While singing was a needed and dependable comfort to me as a child, the act of singing in front of other people in anything resembling a performance setting was so scary that it completely put me off a life centered around singing, which was always the life I wanted. So, that’s a big deal.
Incrementally, and much to my delight, I found ways to identify both how important singing and making music is to me, and how to start to remedy the situation.
So here I am, singing up a storm most days – woohoo! I love my job, I love my life and I love the songs I sing. And I love to improvise with my instruments and my voice, just making stuff up on the spot. (I even went through a 4-year program to learn how to be a music improv facilitator with the awesome-est of organizations: Music for People.) I can express my feelings in the moment melodically and rhythmically, but I’ve been relatively stuck when it comes to words. Which if you know me may surprise you because I talk a lot. But it’s true.
I have a lot of anxiety about putting my own words to my own music — I think that’s called “song writing?” Eeeek.
I am so afraid of writing songs that suck. That are cliche. That are so un-cliche that they won’t make any sense to anybody. That are whiny and pathetic. Boring. Embarrassing. That even if it’s a good song, it will offend someone in my life. Blah blah blah, you name it. The inner critic goes wild!
But it’s like a holy grail, right? I’ve spent so much time singing other people’s great songs, that I’ve put great songs up on a high pedestal, and to create a song that’s not so great feels like some kind of crime. But is this not exactly what I rail against around singing in general?? That we don’t have to be perfect? That singing and using our voice is our birthright? You know it, baby!
So it’s time! And I thought I’d share this here with you.
I did write a few songs (2), about five years ago. It took me about 6 months before I tentatively shared the first one with a friend, and then with my husband, and then several years more before I shared it with my band. When we finally sang it out, it was very rewarding and fun. It was about my son, and he was in the audience and he teared up — it doesn’t really get better than that. I made the second one around that same time and though I like it, our band could never figure out an arrangement that worked for it — I think it needs some tweaking and for that I think I need more experience and to gather some skills. Which you only get by doing it.
So I got this book. How to Sing One Song by Jeff Tweedy, of the band Wilco.
It’s been liberating and joyful to hear what he has to say and to play with his suggestions and exercises. His way of thinking suits my ADD brain — pulling together loose associations and playfully assembling them to create a story through ambience, and to match it up with a tune. Jeff (who I only know through his book, but who I now feel is my good buddy) is a delightful and supportive mentor. Perfect for me.
I’m really having a blast and letting myself get obsessed. And letting myself sound whiny and pathetic or goofy or whatever — mainly not to worry so much about writing bad songs and just keep on going. It’s really about the practice of letting what’s inside get outside, and experiencing the joy of creating for it’s own sake. It makes me feel good.
This is my bold announcement: I’m writing songs. Boom. I said it.
So, what about you? What do you want to do?
What makes you feel good? Singing? Drawing? Dancing? Engineering? Fixing motorcycles? Helping other people? Whatever it is, give yourself permission! Why the hell not? We can get all tied up in knots and stop ourselves from doing stuff, but it’s so much more fun to just do it.