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.
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.
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...
Occasionally during this Summer of Songs I'll give myself a little challenge to keep me moving forward. This week I've challenged myself to write a lyric a day, or at least start a lyric, after reading a chapter in one of my favorite books, "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions." This book has been a deep well for me over the years and I so appreciate where it takes my heart and mind every time I read from it.
A few years ago I was perusing it's pages and came across the chapter entitled "Jesus My Glory." That simple phrase ended up being the starting point for a song I wrote a few years ago with Lee Black. It has never been cut except by yours truly on my last album, which, funny enough, (shameless plug) you can download in my STORE. You can also listen to a little snippet of it - the link is on my ABOUT page.
Jesus My Glory
Lee Black / Gina Boe
Any blessing I have known
Wealth or earthly treasure
No reward could measure
To the joy of knowing you
When I’m shaken by the storm
Crying out for rescue
I will seek no refuge
Save the fortress of your name
Jesus my glory
Given to and for me
Surest hope and fiercest love
Worthy of adoring
Jesus my glory
For the cleansing of my heart
There’s no other fountain
But the mercy found in
Your redeeming, healing blood
Bound to you by matchless grace
Ties that none could sever
I will sing forever
This my song of endless praise
In his book, The War of Art, which is usually the first book I recommend to any aspiring writer, Steven Pressfield writes, "“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” This truth keeps me marching back into my writing room day after day, knowing that there is simply no substitute for sitting my butt in the chair and getting to work.
I have a list of song ideas, musical ideas, books, and other projects that I check regularly. It's a constant reminder that I have no excuse for ever thinking I have nothing to work on. The issue is more likely that I have moments when I don't feel creative. That's when perspiration must take the lead until inspiration kicks in. And like a faithful friend who shows up just when I need them, most days, inspiration shows up. Not every day, but most days. It seems like the more I write, the more I have to say. It isn't always poetic, brilliant, or worth sharing with the world, but it's something.
This past week included a couple of online co-writes, but mostly a whole lot of time hammering out a script. I am growing to love the characters and while I know where the story is headed, crafting the dialogue and watching the story unfold has been so stinkin' much fun. And hard. But good. Those are the best moments, honestly. Putting in the work, enjoying the process, and liking the results.
Seeing the calendar and knowing that June is half over makes me realize how quickly this Summer of Songs is going to fly by, and it makes me sad. Mid-August will come, I'll head back to work, and writing time will once again be limited. That will really make me sad. But for now, I will sit my butt back in the chair and get to work. At the end of day, I will choose to be grateful for this season. Tomorrow, I will get up and sit my butt back in the chair again and do the work.
Important things should know before reading this post:
1. My two teenage boys are gone for the week.
2. I am currently assisting my dog Gus in raising her 6 puppies.
You're gonna get this day in chunks - I'll try to be more specific next time, but you'll get the idea.
7:00 a.m. Woke up and thanked the Lord I actually had my first full night's sleep in three weeks because the puppies are now downstairs and are sleeping through the night, thus no nighttime feedings to monitor. Went down stairs and supervised first feeding of the day. Why must I supervise? Well, if you must know, it's mostly because there are six puppies and Gus only has 6...um....spigots, and occasionally a puppy tries to feed on a portion of Gus' belly where there is no...um....spigot, resulting in a big hickey.
7:30 a..m. Made coffee, the most important meal of the day; showered and put on minimum makeup so I wouldn't frighten any potential visitors; had a quiet time in the kitchen while sipping on the most important meal of the day; wandered the house doing mundane but necessary house-maintenance things for about an hour. Oh yeah, also ate oatmeal. The second most important meal of the day.
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Dove into my writing for the day; mostly worked on a book for a musical I'm writing; occasionally stopped to eat leftover tortilla chips and guac from Chipotle; at some point late-morning I also ate the leftover chicken/rice bowl from Chipotle; supervised second puppy feeding; frequently texted co-writers about random thoughts; watched a coupe of clips from the Tony Awards; throughout the morning I revised several documents and sent them back and forth to co-writers for proofing/editing/pondering; continued consuming the most important meal of the day.
12:00.- 4:00 p.m. A little more wandering around the house taking care of addition random house things I didn't notice during my morning wandering; more writing on the book, more document editing, more emails and texts with co-writers; checked writing appointments on the calendar; perused my song files; entertained some puppy-visitors; munched on graham crackers and canned frosting; supervised another puppy feeding; consumed more of the most important meal of the day.
4:00-6:00 p.m. Online workout video because I mostly sat all day and ate random things and I simply have to to maintain my sanity; went for a walk even though I just worked out because it was stormy outside and I like to walk in that kind of weather; refrained from consuming more of the most important meal of the day and chose water instead; continued texting and emailing co-writers; drank a protein shake and a leftover piece of frozen pizza my boys didn't eat before they left for show choir camp.
7:00-11:00 p.m. Supervised puppy feeding; Perry and I played with puppies in the living room; watched The Post, supervised another puppy feeding; crashed in bed, thankful for a day like this. .
My friend Lisa has been "my friend Lisa" for over 30 years now. I could write a blog a day for one hundred years to tell you about our shenanigans and such, but today's blog is not about that. Today's entry is about the phone conversation we had this morning. It went like this:
Lisa - Hey
Me - Hey, whatchya doin'?
Lisa - Packing.
Me - Wanna write a song?
Lisa - No.
Me - Why not?
Lisa - Because I'm packing.
Me - Wanna write a song while you're packing?
Lisa - No.
Me - Yeah you do.
Lisa - No, I don't.
Me - Let me read you what I have so far. (I proceed to read a partial verse and full chorus)
Lisa - That doesn't sound like a kids song.
Me - It isn't. Why did you think it was a kids song?
Lisa - I just thought you were calling to say, "Hey, wanna write? 'Cause I have to write a kids musical and I need help finishing the songs 'cause I have a deadline." Then I'd say, "When is it due?" And you'd say, "Yesterday." Then I'd say "How many songs?" And you'd say, "A few." Then I'd say "Really, when do you need them?" And you'd say, "Tomorrow. Actually tonight."
Me - I don't do that.
Lisa - Yes, you do.
Me - Yeah, I do. So you wanna write this one?
Lisa - Sure. Email me what you have.
Me - K. Bye.
And this is how countless conversations have gone over the years.
I got in trouble in a staff meeting one time because I made the comment that I didn't like kids. Granted, I was the Children's Director at a church at the time, so I can see why that statement didn't go over very well. In my defense, my comment was made in jest, and in a context that should have been understood, but obviously was not. I seemed to get in trouble for stuff like that a lot when I worked at a church. I don't work at a church anymore.
Let me explain my comment. I am the youngest of five children so I didn't have to engage with younger siblings or watch a little brother and sister. I didn't babysit much growing up. I have never felt even the slightest inclination to work at a daycare. For most of my 20s and early 30s, I really had little desire to spend much time with children other than my own. I did the occasional child-swap-you-watch-mine-I'll-watch-yours-so-we-can-stay-sane with other moms, but that was about it.
Please understand, I fiercely love my own kids. And not only do I love my kids, I like them. I think they're the coolest people on the planet and being their mom is IT for me. But other people's kids? Well, they're awesome too - in doses. Surely some of you parents can relate. Please tell me you can. If you say you can't, you're lying.
Over the years, especially the last 15 years, I have grown immensely in this whole kid-appreciation thing. I think that's due to a variety of reasons. First, I hope I've simply grown up a bit. Second, I've met a lot of adults who drive me crazy and in turn met a lot of kids who are much cooler and honestly more mature than some adults, so I'd rather hang out with the kids. I'm probably just hoping their coolness rubs off on me. Lastly, over the years, God has revealed some gifting in my life that I have been attempting to steward well as it relates to connecting with kids and equipping them to impact their world. I have also become increasingly aware of the amazing capacity kids have in the area of creativity, and in turn, have felt more and more compelled to encourage them in their creative pursuits. They need the encouragement because being a creative kid can mean walking a tough road paved with ridicule and misunderstanding. I know because I was a creative kid and I have raised / am raising four creative kids.
Many of these thoughts are the reason behind a new project I'm working on, which I can't tell you much more about right now. Sorry - cruel teaser - stay tuned. But all of this also speaks to why I feel so strongly about writing kids music, why I think it's so darn hard to do it well, and why it is so important. When I was pregnant with Houston, I recorded my first album of kids music, mostly just to share the songs I had written for my own kids. It went over pretty well. Since then, I've recorded multiple other kids projects, including musicals and Vacation Bible School materials. The process taps into a whole other part of my brain and in many ways, is one of the more challenging things I get to do. Writing songs for kids that are current, memorable, and use vocabulary that is listener-friendly while still not lowering the bar educationally or theologically, is just not easy. I'm competing with radio and Disney and gaming and youtube and all the other options kids have to hear music. What I write can't just be as good as all that; it has to be better. And that isn't easy to do.
A few years ago I took a two-day retreat with my friends Lisa Q and Sue C to work on songs for a VBS curriculum. I can't remember how many songs we wrote that weekend, but I remember laughing our butts off while chasing several ideas. I mentioned earlier how writing kids stuff is difficult, but it is also a heck of a lot of fun; thus the laughter. I recently rediscovered one of the work tapes we made that weekend and oh, gosh.... I would share it but I'm pretty sure you'd think we were intoxicated. Which we weren't, I swear.
One song from that weekend writing session has found life beyond that VBS curriculum we originally wrote it for. Later this year, the song posted below will also be included in a new kids musical I wrote on the Biblical Metanarrative. That would be the big story of scripture: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration - easy peasy kid fluff. Ummm, not. It was one of the toughest projects I think I've ever done and honestly, I'm pretty proud of how it is turning out. I can't wait to share it with you when it is released.
I take my responsibility of writing kids music very seriously and as I mentioned before, I refuse to lower the bar on what kids can absorb, memorize, and the wisdom they can impart to others. They are capable, eager and deserve the best songs I can give them. And if they end up laughing their butts off too sometimes, well then I will really think I've done my job well. Here's the lyric to one of the fun ones. Enjoy!
Gina Boe / Sue Christensen / Lisa Qualsett
Hey, what's up with the rattlesnake and all that scaly skin
And what's up with the billy goat and the whiskers on its chin
Yeah what's up with that jiggly thing on every turkey's neck
What's up with all the stuff that I don't get
What's up is God's an artist and His work is everywhere
From creepy-crawlers in the ground to birds up in the air
Each sunset is a masterpiece He paints across the sky
Then turns it into shiny stars at night
He's the Great Imaginator
Our incredible Creator
And everything that He creates is marvelous it's true
He's the Wonderful Designer
And the whole world's a reminder
Of how amazing our God is and all that He can do
Each corner of creation is a little mystery
It's all about God showing us His creativity
And even though some parts of us might seem a little strange
There's reasons why He made it look that way
And so it begins. Summer of Songs 2018 begins today! WOO-HOO!!!!!!!! So here are a few things about how this will work and why I'm so excited.
I am a great starter. I am not always a great finisher. But I'm working on it. For some reason, turning 50 last year gave me a little more peace about embracing what I'm good at and coming clean about the things that are not really "my thing." There is a lot of freedom in recognizing and owning both. So, knowing I can struggle with follow-through and finishing, I've learned to set some parameters that help keep me on track. I have also invited people to keep me accountable about the stuff I don't like being accountable for, and flat-out asking a few key people to be my cheerleaders. Yeah, it's okay to do that. There is nothing wrong with telling someone, "Hey, I may need some encouragement along the way and I would love for you to consider being one of those encouragers." The flip-side to that is that I've tried to identify people in my circle of influence who need me to do nothing more than encourage them. Because believing in someone's potential and telling them they're awesome is powerful.
Regarding the parameters for this summer, they're pretty simple:
Body and soul come first - For me that means staying physically healthy and spiritually healthy will set the tone for anything else I want to accomplish in a day. So, exercise, good food, time with Jesus. It's just foundational stuff for me.
Social media management - Comparison kills contentment, creativity, and can make me question my calling. And nothing brings on a good comparison battle like social media. My story is my story and no one else's life is going to look like mine. And no one else's social media life is an accurate representation of their real life anyway. So, it's best to keep my emotions in check by limiting social media time. In practical terms, this means doing my best to limit social media time in general, but more specifically, to have no social media before noon unless I am posting info from my website. To a certain extent, our social media world is a necessary evil since I am actually running a business and social media is a marketing tool. It is what it is. Hopefully I'll use those platforms wisely.
Write every day - There is certainly no shortage of work this summer. Between two big projects I want to finish and all the songs I want to write, I can surely find something to write about every day. Most writers will tell you, the more they flex those muscles, the better shape they are in and the better the work they do. So, the goal is to write something every single day.
Share the journey and encourage fellow travelers - A couple years ago I was at a retreat where we were challenged to come up with our WHY statement. You know, those few words that basically sum up your purpose. I never quite got my WHY statement finished, (funny, in light of paragraph two) but I did identify four words that I hoped would define what I want my life and my writing to be about. Those words are: ENGAGE, INSPIRE, EQUIP, MOBILIZE. Hopefully each song, each blog, each chapter, and each script, will do one of those four things in some small way. So as I journey, I will share my experiences with you. Not because those experiences will all be incredibly exciting or because I think my life is cool or because I think you should have similar experiences. I just know how encouraged I have been to read other people's good/bad/ugly/success/failure stories and I feel compelled to share mine with you.
That's it for now! Appointment #1 starts in 30 minutes and I haven't showered. And the coffee is brewing. And I am praying the ideas will start flowing.
Be a blessing!
Two years ago, in the summer of 2016, I made the decision to commit myself to a season of writing at a level I hadn't dedicated myself to before. I called this little adventure Summer of Songs and set specific parameters and goals to help keep me on track. It was a prolific time and while I may not have reached every goal I set, I have no doubt that it not only increased the amount of writing I was doing, but also improved the quality of writing I was producing.
This summer, I am embarking on the same adventure. Summer of Songs 2018 officially begins May 29th and I can't wait! I've got a couple of big projects I need to complete, but mostly I'll be slugging it out day after day, writing songs. Most of the same parameters will be in place which I'll detail later, but I am definitely raising the bar as far as my own commitment to the process. More on that later as well.
So, why summer? Why not dedicate myself to this type of schedule throughout the entire year? Mostly, because I have to work "real jobs" which requires much of my time and energy throughout the school year. And partly because I am still in a season of mothering two teenage boys who are heavily involved in music and sports. For many years our family lived a homeschool family's life which was incredibly flexible and worked well for me as a songwriter. When we transitioned our oldest two kids into public school, not only did the structure impact the writing plan, but I was also committed to missing as little of their activities as possible. It's a short and fast-moving season of life and no songwriting experience will ever compare to the joy of watching them do what they love.
The whole "real job" thing really ticked me off for a while because I felt constantly frustrated by the realization that making a full time living as a songwriter wasn't happening for me. I was having a decent amount of success, but as most writers will tell you, cuts and print projects and radio airplay and awards don't always translate to income. It is what it is. I've come to terms. In spite of the fact I would love to be writing full time, I understand that in order to continue to make the art I am most passionate about, I need to be my own benefactor, at least for a season. I am unbelievably thankful that God has continued to provide work for me in other arenas that I thoroughly enjoy and hope I am making an impact. But time spent there means less time writing. However, with the change in the summer schedule also comes the ability to dive deeper into doing what I love. And dive I will.
I intend to blog more frequently and will keep you posted on how the Summer of Songs 2018 is going. It's a journey I love to share and hopefully you will be encouraged and inspired to begin your own creative adventure. I look forward to hearing what that might be!