The Heart of the Plan
Four years ago, I was preparing to embark on a new adventure. This particular adventure would take a huge investment of resources of every kind. Going in, I knew the risk of failure was pretty high, at least by most people's definition of failure when it comes to running a business. But my definition of success and failure have usually been a little different than other people's and I'm okay with that.
Many moons ago, when my husband and I came off the road after traveling full time for three years doing music all across the country, as well as working trips to Mexico, Canada, and Italy, a friend approached me and said, "Gosh, aren't you disappointed? Things didn't really turn out like you planned." I suppose it may have seemed that way to her and quite possibly a lot of others. In those three years, I didn't become famous. I didn't make a lot of money. And I didn't set myself on a path to continue traveling and singing as a career. But that really wasn't the plan. At least that wasn't the HEART of the plan. The heart of the plan was to write, record, sing, and have an impact on others, whatever that might look like. At the end of those three years, I'd say things went exactly like the heart of the plan. And then it was time to move on.
Back to the adventure from four years ago...
The plan was to have a place, a space, where people could hold events of various kinds and where I could host events for my own creative endeavors. There were additional components to the plan involving other parties, but that was the basic idea. That was the plan. The HEART of the plan was much more. The heart of the plan was community. And to serve as both the symbolic and functional centerpiece of the plan, I wanted a table. A big table. A big, industrial-style table. I drew up some sketches and asked a friend who was just starting a business if he would build it. He did. It was perfect.
Over the next three years, that table would seat men and women conducting business, moms who needed encouragement, and wedding parties. It would hold food from various cultures, the sacraments from different religions, scripts and lyric sheets, the photos of a loved one who recently passed, and the records of achievement from many high school graduates. It served its purpose well during the three years that table sat in its designated place.
These days, the table doesn't sit in an 8,000 square foot building; it sits in the middle of my dining room. When we closed our business last December, the one thing I was determined to keep was that table. Partly because I love it. But mostly because it is still the functional and symbolic centerpiece of what I want my life to be about. Since being in our home, it has been the gathering spot for hungry teens, extended family we rarely see, and both happy and hurting friends. Most often, it is surrounded by the people I hold dearest in this world. The plan for the table may have changed, but the table is still the heart of the plan.
I have tried pretty hard over the years to teach my kids that people matter. They matter more than possessions and position. They matter more than religious or political differences. People matter more than songs, and business, and activity. And they certainly matter more than their mistakes. Over the course of my days on this earth, I may or may not be able to provide much to those I meet in the way of financial gain or privileged opportunity. I might not have great wisdom or vast knowledge to share. But I hope and pray I will always be able to offer a seat at the table, because something special happens there. Stomachs get filled. Voices are heard. Walls come down. Spirits are lifted. It is a beautiful, graceful thing.
I have no idea where this table will be sitting five or twenty or fifty years from now. I hope it holds up over the years. I hope many, many people find something they need as they gather around it. And when I'm long gone, I hope someone else will still see it as more than just a table. Because it really is so much more. It is the heart of the plan. And the heart of the plan is always bigger than the plan itself.
Random Writer Thoughts
1. Too busy to write? Do it anyway. You obviously have things to write about if you're that busy.
2. Can't get someone to work with you? Make them wish they had.
3. Discouraged about your lack of "success" as a writer? First, carefully examine your definition of success. Second, encourage someone else in their own writing because your journey probably isn't about you anyway.
4. The process of writing really is the best part. That, and the relationships you build with other writers. If you don't love those two things, I'm not sure anything else could make the long days, the longer nights, the rejection, and the incredibly hard work worth it.
5. The writing room is always a more productive place with mood lighting, hot coffee, and a dog laying peacefully at your feet.
When Summer Ends
Once again, summer has flown by. This week brings a new season for me as I will be working a few more hours at my kids' school this year as an accompanist and music mentor, with a few sub dates thrown in here and there. Should be fun!
I am grateful for the daily opportunity to connect with kids and be a part of a wonderful vocal music program that has influenced my own family in countless ways. And yet, entering a new season means leaving one behind and this week I will close the door on another "Summer of Songs". I had intended to keep you more informed of how things were going, but truth be told, my writing time was limited and there were many days I had to choose between blogging about songwriting and actually writing a song. And since I didn't set out to have a "Summer of Blogs", it really was an easy choice as far as where to put my energy. The songs couldn't wait.
My summer also included 9 weeks of raising puppies and getting them settled in their new homes. Our adorable litter of Goldendoodles filled up many hours of my time and while it was a huge commitment, it also kept me home a lot which is my favorite place to be. So it's all good. I also returned to my job in and out of cornfields this summer with a detasseling company. This job entails early mornings, muddy commutes, a house that smells like corn for 4 weeks, working with great kids and a wonderful boss. Again....grateful.
So, did I write much? Yes. I finished up a new kids musical which, for reasons I will detail another time, was a new kind of challenge for me. I'm just beginning another kids musical which is being tracked in October so it's time to hit the ground running on that one. I continued to work on a new book which I hoped would release this fall but now I'm shooting for January. I used to beat myself up over delays like this, but I've learned to be okay with the process and timing of it all. I had some wonderful online co-writes with old friends and trusted co-writers. Just last week I wrote a Christmas song here at my house with an amazing artist who will be releasing a new Christmas project very soon - can't wait for you to hear it! I made a quick trip to Nashville with my girls (daughter Hannah and soon-to-be-daughter-in-law Kelsey) and squeezed in a writing appointment while I was there.
I have spent quite a bit of time this summer working on a project I can't tell you much about. I honestly don't like the whole teaser, secret-keeping thing when it comes to this stuff and I wish I could tell you more about it, but I just can't yet. Suffice it to say the writing has been life-giving to my songwriter's soul and I am loving the journey. The work is different than anything I've ever done and it has challenged me greatly. In many ways, it feels like the most sacred work I have ever done. I cannot wait for the day we get to unleash it to the world. I have no idea what that will look like at this point, but I believe with my whole being it will happen.
Honestly alert: Even with all the amazing opportunities to write, I continue to wrestle with knowing my place in the music industry. I work in it and for it, but many days feel like I don't belong; like an outsider who occasionally works inside the circle, but isn't invited to the party. I'm a hired hand but only the family gets to celebrate the harvest. It's not bad, it's just interesting. I swear I'm NOT complaining. As you read over and over again in my blog entries, I am beyond grateful for the work I get to do. And I am confident that I am the writer I am because I live where I live and do life the way I do it. I know I have opportunities come my way that wouldn't if I lived elsewhere. But like any profession, there are perks, obstacles, and unique challenges that come with the way I've chosen to work as a songwriter. Hopefully, I'm getting better at being content in all circumstances. God knows we've had enough conversations about it over the years.
So, what does the next season look like? Without question, I will be writing. As I mentioned, there are many projects that need my attention and I pray for more opportunities to show up. I will be watching for them as I walk through my days at school and at home. And as often as I can, I will give you a glimpse of the journey. Stay tuned...