It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.
Today, my Summer of Songs adventure is coming to a close. My younger kids went back to school today and I am sitting here in the quiet alone with my thoughts. Okay, not quite alone. Gus, our new Goldendoodle puppy is at my feet. Leo, our sitting Ragdoll cat, is on the chair in the corner. And Jake, our 6-year-old Golden Retriever is in the kitchen, still angry Gus has taken his usual place under my desk.
Going into this summer writing challenge, I was hoping to come out of it with a bunch of new songs, a renewed passion for what I do, and a clearer picture of what the next season might look like. So, how did I fare? Well, new songs were written. Some I love, some are okay, some need more work. Do I have a renewed passion for what I do? This is tough to answer. I continue to be certain of my gifts and my calling. What I am not certain of is the capacity in which I am supposed to be using my gifts. And that leads to an unclear picture of the next season. So, I guess one out of three ain't bad. More on this later...
The guidelines I had set for myself were definitely helpful, but in all honestly, there were days the guidelines were completely ignored. And I'm fine with that. If I've learned anything over the years it is that the only set-in-stone rule for my life is to be flexible. My life demands it.
I kicked off my SOS at a writing retreat which proved to be a great jumpstart and much needed encouragement for my soul. I typically write with a small group of regular co-writers, and I needed to be reminded I could be thrown into a room with someone I didn't know and hadn't worked with and still be able to walk out with a song. So thankful to my friend Joel for this opportunity.
I finished up a VBS project with a church I am privileged to work with on a yearly basis. This particular work is challenging and fulfilling in a completely different way for me and I feel a great sense of responsibility to do it well. I'm just so grateful I get to be a part of the work they are doing.
Partnering with my friend Sue Smith is always a treat and this summer we dove into a couple different projects, one of which is yet to be completed. First, we tackled a kids musical. We've written a few together, but this one was particularly rewarding because we wrote every bit of ourselves; the concept, the script, the lyrics, the melodies. It will be unleashed this fall and hopefully churches and schools all over will be performing it next Spring. The second project is a book which I'll blog more about in the next few weeks. We've talked about writing it for a while and some recent circumstances kind of forced our hands. We're midstream and working hard to finish it very soon. We are both pretty excited about seeing this little dream realized!
The rest of my writing time was in regular weekly online appointments with some great co-writers, and some intentional write-alone time. I haven't determined a song count yet but I'm guessing it was around thirty to forty songs either started, finished, or unleashed.
So, what about this summer was difficult? A lot.
At about the same time I headed into this journey, I was also confronted with something that rocked my personal world in a pretty big way. Every day became an exercise in taking thoughts captive, surrender, and trusting God like never before. I tried hard to believe in His sovereignty; that He had foreseen the collision between this crisis and my creative aspirations. Many days, writing songs seemed like a frivolous and futile activity in light of other things that needed my time and attention. And yet, the writing room called. Not to write about what I've been facing as I have felt strongly it isn't time for that. But simply to push through and keep exercising my songwriting muscles, as I am hoping to continue using them for a while. Some days writing was the distraction needed to set my gaze on something else. Other days writing was my weapon; my way of telling the enemy "You are evil and I hate you and you will not win and I WILL write a song today." Yeah, some days were like that.
Another tough thing about this summer was the further realization that the world I started writing songs in isn't the same world today. People don't buy music. We've raised a generation of kids that quite possibly may never purchase a song. I remember having conversations with my friends 15 years ago about how their kids were illegally downloading songs and the impact it would have on the industry one day. And here we are. Even the government seems to want to make it impossible for songwriters to make a living doing what they do. It is beyond disheartening.
I've also been confronted a little more with the reality of being an independent songwriter. I chose to walk away from a publishing deal a few years ago. I'm sure it seemed crazy to some people, but all I know is it felt right in my gut at the time. Mostly, I'm glad and would do it again under the same circumstances. It has afforded me the privilege of working with multiple publishers on a variety of projects which has been a blast. It's also lonely. I miss being a part of a team. And I know I miss out on some opportunities. So, do I stay here working on my own or make an effort to find a publishing home somewhere again? It's a tougher road because of where I live. Not impossible, but definitely harder. I have no idea what to do about all that. As if I can do much about it at all.
So, where do I fit? And what does the next season look like for me? I honestly don't know. What I do know is the thing I've chosen to devote much of my life to is becoming more costly every day. I've been fortunate to have some success professionally, but has that translated into making a living? No. I work multiple jobs to help contribute financially, but I'm also starting to look into other things. Different kind of writing opportunities? That could be fun. A completely different career? Maybe, but no clue what that would be. Back to school? Maybe, but yuck. Or do I focus more intently on this songwriting thing, plugging away, digging for the next idea, and occasionally fashioning words and melodies together in a way that just might move somebody. I have no idea.
For now, I write. And do whatever is necessary to keep doing that. And I pray. A lot. Begging God to either open a big ol' door or show me there's something else I'm supposed to pour my life into.
To those of you who have followed along on this adventure, thank you. I hope you've enjoyed the peek into a songwriter's life. More than that, I hope you've been encouraged to go on your own adventure. If you do, please let me know. It's better to have friends to root you on along the way. I'd be privileged to be one of those friends.