It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.
Starting is fun. Sticking with it isn't always fun. As I knew would happen, my SOS has been interrupted a bit these first couple of weeks. Projects needed finishing. Kids need their mom. Cars break down. Life happens. But none of it was a surprise to God so I'm choosing to see these interruptions as inspiration and roll with it as best I can.
I'm two weeks into this adventure and all in all, it's been great. I've spent much of the last week finishing up a VBS project. Today I head into the studio to see a new kids musical come to life. Songs have been started. Others finished. Ideas have been flowing and for that I'm grateful. That doesn't always happen, but it's something I've prayed for and those prayers have been answered. I may not like how life provides some of those ideas but still...grateful.
I'm hoping to post song titles and maybe even a work tape or two for you to hear the fruit of this labor so far. I'm as just as fascinated by the process of writing songs as I am the songs that are born as a result of that process, so I hope you'll enjoy a sneak peak at some of what's been happening.
For those of you participating in your own summer adventure, I hope you are pressing on, even when things get tough. I'm right there with ya. And I'm believing it's worth it. I hope you are too.
After an amazing few days away writing songs with some fabulous people, it was time to head for home and try to get into some kind of routine for my SOS. (That's Summer Of Songs if you hadn't figured that out by now.) However, I've learned that for our family, routine and summer don't go well together. There are camps, sports, work, visits from relatives, fun days with friends, and a whole lot more that keeps us from a week-to-week routine. I love it, but by mid-August, I am ready for the schedule the school year brings us. But for now, we summer.
There will be a few work trips to Nashville, but most of my time will be spent here at home. I knew it would be helpful for me to have some guidelines to keep me on task during my SOS. Here are the basics:
1. Body and soul come first. Probably self-explanatory, but this simply means some form of physical exercise and some alone time with Jesus are critical. Both are an absolute necessity for my daily life, not only for a productive SOS. I'm pretty much an every-other-day exercise kind of girl, but this summer I'm shooting for something every day. Whether it's hitting the gym, walking the dog, or going for a long run, it must happen. Time with Jesus can look a lot of different ways for me: sitting on the deck reading the Bible, journaling, reading a devotional, or just having a good old-fashioned chat with God. If I haven't done both of these things before I sit down to write, I know I won't function as well. Doesn't mean I can't write, but I know these two things help me focus on the good stuff.
2. No social media before noon. Creativity is work. It takes both clearing my mind of crap and filling it with things that matter. Rarely does social media assist in either of those efforts. I think this might eventually lead to me distancing myself even further from some social media formats but time will tell. For now, I choose to not let that chatter become the loudest voice I hear as I prepare to make something beautiful.
3. One book / one documentary each week. I love to read. I love documentaries. Both inspire me. Both can be crowded out of my routine pretty quickly. So, I have set this goal and will continue to try and reach it.
4. Write every day. Okay, more like five days a week. I don't write on Sundays and there's usually one other day each week when something else has to take precedence. Like recovering from a writing trip, or chasing a kids somewhere, or having family time. So far my days have been filled with writing appointments (either in person or online) or I've chosen to write by myself. I used to do that all the time, but co-writing has become the norm for me these days. However, I have found it beneficial to have some days blocked out for just me.
There are a few other things I'm challenging myself on this summer, but those are the main ones. It's been important to show myself some grace in these areas because I don't want to become discouraged if I don't measure up somehow. The purpose of this SOS isn't to meet some kind of standard or keep a bunch of rules. It is to be the most productive I can be at doing something I love and feel called to. That means being disciplined, being intentional, and working my butt off. I'm all in and so far it feels really good. The songs already born this summer feel special. I can't wait to share them with you. Someday.
This post was written Saturday night. Sunday I made the five-hour drive to Nashville with Sue S. and Carrie M., then another 12-hour drive by my lonesome so I could be home for my boys last day of school. There’s much more to say about the weekend, but my 3:00 a.m. arrival time has left me wiped. So today is a recovery day. More to come tomorrow!
I am sitting in my room at the retreat center where our co-writing retreat is held. I’m exhausted. But it’s a good kind of exhaustion. Yes, we sit, write, eat, sit, write, eat, and sit some more, but the work we do leaves all of us wired and tired at the same time. Sleep might come, but it could easily be interrupted by a melody running through my head. Or I might wake up in the night only to be kept up by the struggle to find that elusive word to a lyric that just isn’t quite right yet.
Each night after dinner, all the writers gather to hear all the songs written that day. So far I’ve counted 64 songs written by 48 writers. That’s incredible to me. Over the years, some of the song written at this retreat have gone on to be recorded, sung by artists and in churches all over the world, and played on the radio. But hearing them for the first time, sung and played by the writers themselves, is my favorite way to hear them. They aren’t polished or perfect, but they’re raw and real and special. Wherever they end up, nothing will quite compare to the moment they were revealed to the world for the first time.
Tomorrow we will share one last meal together before we all head our separate ways. Then we will go home and reserve the dates on our calendars for the next retreat. Until we meet again, there will be more co-writes, either in person, or through Skype or email. And we will wait for news from each other about songs written here. Some will be sung in a prison, where my friend Donna spends her Sunday mornings. Some might end up in print, sent off to churches everywhere to be sung by choirs. You might hear some on the radio or at a concert you attend. Who knows? But until these songs find their homes, we offer them up with great expectation and we’ll be praying that God will use them big and small ways to change the world.
One of the reasons I chose to begin my Summer of Songs this week was because of where I am right now. Ten years ago, my friend Joel started a co-writing retreat. It’s a three-day gathering of songwriters from across the country who come together for the specific purpose of writing songs. But much more happens here than just that.
It’s hard to explain to a non-writer what goes on when two or three songwriters go into a little room together and attempt to create something beautiful. And meaningful. And moving. Something you hope will find a life far beyond that little room. Because of your common desire to create something that matters, you risk a lot. You get vulnerable and real and dare to say stupid things in order to get to the good stuff. It’s scary. And fun.
Some of the people here a I’ve known for a very long time. Others I just met today. Either way, I know lifelong relationships will form. We call them our “logical family.” And sometimes, they understand us better than some of our biological family. That just happens when you share life in the writing room.
I am so grateful to Joel for his vision. This weekend is special, and it’s the perfect place to dive deep into this summer writing adventure. Good things will happen, I just know it.
I'm feeling a little like Bilbo Baggins this morning. I love the moment when Bilbo runs from his home and proclaims "I'm going on an adventure!" Like Bilbo, I'm about to head out on my own adventure. I'm hoping there won't be dragons and monsters, but to be honest, some of the battles I'll face feel like that sometimes.
A few months ago, I got the idea to launch my own personal campaign of sorts. I wanted to dive deeper in writing and attempt to structure my life in such a way as to narrow my focus a bit. Any of you who know me, know I have too many plates spinning at once. I don't need you to tell me. I know it. Sometimes it's out of necessity. I have a husband, four kids, pets, businesses, responsibilities. It gets nuts. We have been in a year of recovery from an awful 20 months of my husband's unemployment. It feels like for every month he didn't have a job, it is taking us three to find our way out of it. Because of that, we've been in job overload. It's okay. You do what needs to be done. He's a year into his new job and we're finally feeling a little breathing room. Thank you, Jesus.
Back to the spinning plates. I decided it was finally okay to let some of those plates fall. Whew. And yet, scary, for some reason. Partly because those plates help pay a mortgage. But also because those of us who actually do thrive when we have a lot to do get fearful that if we don't have a LOT to get done, we won't get ANYTHING done. However, because I know that my main calling in life, other than wife and mom, is to be a songwriter, I knew something had to change. So, I've cleared my schedule of some things that I thoroughly enjoy, but need to let go of. I'm setting my sights on one thing this summer - writing songs. A lot. Most of my days will be filled with writing appointments, write-alone days, and fun things to "fill the lake." I can't wait.
I can't say much more right now because I'm already late getting out the door, but I will be posting regularly. I'll fill you in on the guidelines I've set for myself. (I can't call them rules or my rebellious self will try and break them all.) I'll give you a glimpse inside the writing room. I'll introduce you to my writing friends. And hopefully you will be encouraged to make time for a little adventure of your own.
Welcome to my Summer of Songs.