I’ve finally become the music writer that I never thought I’d be.
My passion for music goes far beyond loving one specific genre or favorite band. It goes beyond listening to “Black music” simply because I’m black. It isn’t defined by what’s popular, who’s “Hot” right now, or if it’s age appropriate. I love music because it is a soundtrack to life. Like living your own movie everyday, and having that one song come on that makes that certain scene come to life.
I’ve sang my whole life. In church, in choirs, weddings, funerals, in collaboration with other up-and-coming artists, etc. It was so frustrating to me that I could bring life to other people’s lyrics and yet I couldn’t write my own. I just couldn’t! I tried for years… and I mean YEARS. I’d sit for hours trying to come up with one verse… one chorus… one verse that sounded good with the one chorus. I’d get myself so worked up that I’d end up sobbing, feeling frustrating, defeated and lacking in talent. I’d give up for months… a year… and then I’d try it again without success. I journal constantly and was failing miserably at forming words already written into a melody. I tried to write about life, love, things I saw other people going through. I tried it all. Every effort ended in tears, a pen, paper, and maybe a couple sentences if I was lucky.
Today however is quite another story. In the last couple weeks I have written 2 songs. That’s right… 2 songs in 2 weeks! Pretty much a record breaker for me! Prior to that I’d written maybe 3 songs since the beginning of the year. Something clicked. Something changed. It had nothing to do with method, because I tried ALL the methods in previous years. It had nothing to do with not having enough material, because my life was full of material. It had nothing to do with needing to develope a way with words, because that has always come pretty easily to me. So what was it then?
There was this build-up of suspense and excitement that kept growing within me as I neared my 30th birthday last January. It was this feeling of “My 30s are going to be the best years of my life!” I had no idea what that even meant. All I knew was that I could feel a shift happening inside me. I was growing restless and it felt as if my skin no long fit the person I was becoming. I knew that if I was going to enjoy the many years ahead of me, I was going to have to expand myself. Spread my wings. More accurately, I was going to have to develop my wings.
And I did…
Feather by feather.
And that’s when I found my song. I found it not just in life, but in living. Sure, I had a life full of stuff and things but I wasn’t living. I didn’t take any risks… calculated or otherwise. I feared feeling regret and tried to avoid it at all cost, which meant I only went after things that I knew I wouldn’t fail at. I stuck to the things I was good at and didn’t try to find out if there was anything more to me… fearing that looking too deep into myself would reveal things I wouldn’t be able to fix myself and would feel too ashamed to ask help for from anyone else.
I found my song when I finally started to live.
I learned that song writing is about transparency. That’s the essence of music. People connecting to the humanity expressed in your lyrics. That’s what gives a song meaning… not just words on a page or the act of singing to an instrument. That’s why I wasn’t able to write. I was guarded. I was an actress portraying an open book. You don’t have to be an open book, but pretending to be one is worse than simply saying to the world “I don’t want to let you in because I just like to keep some of me to myself.” There’s nothing wrong with keeping a secret garden, but mine wasn’t filled with delight and intrigue. It was filled with pain, rejection, and self-sabotage. I couldn’t write because deep down I wasn’t living an authentic life. Not in secret and not in public… and your words will always expose you one way or another… and I think on some level I knew that. I think I knew that people wouldn’t hear my words through the wall they were written behind.
So then I started to develop my wings… and I started living… authentically. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the “I don’t even know what that was”.
Funny. The “I don’t even know what that was” makes for some great songs.