A fellow friend and blogger wrote a post about writers being a strange breed—exceptionally acute observers, attentive listeners to what’s going on inside their heads (which can make them seemed spaced out to others), and passionate and focused workers once they get started. They can seem obsessed to those who aren’t writers, and each one seems to have his or her own special set of neuroses about getting their stuff out there (i.e. publishing) and even about the old cliché, writers’ block.
I found myself resonating with a lot of what she said—especially the part about getting an inspiration and having to write it down somewhere, anywhere, as if it were a matter of life and death. Any napkin or scrap of paper will do—or even the back of your hand.
The funny thing is, though, that I don’t really think of myself as a “writer” and never have, even though I was a journalist for more than a decade. Now that I’ve got a book for sale on Amazon, I’m trying to get into author mode, but it all feels a little strange to me. Writing is something I do for fun. I don’t find it hard, and it’s not hard, it’s not a struggle, I don’t fight with writers’ block, and I’m not afraid to put my stuff out there. I’m not bragging, this is just the way it is. Let me explain…
Writing isn’t really my calling. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, well why did you write a book? Why do you write a blog? I guess I could call it a hobby, I don’t know. I’m not really sure what that word means. But I can’t say it’s my calling, because I’ve never felt resistance to doing it, and I never agonize over it.
My calling is music. I’m a composer, and yes, when I get an idea for a tune or a band arrangement in my head, I’ll grab any random piece of paper floating around and frantically try to get it down before I forget it. I used to walk around with a cassette recorder, and now I walk around with a digital one.
I’ve felt resistance to writing music, to getting started on something. Maybe it’s because I take it more seriously that I do with my writing. I knew it was my calling from the time I was 13 years old, and felt inklings in that direction from age 7. Oh, and I’ve also been known to sit around looking like I’m doing nothing, when I’m really deciding whether the low brass should come in before the trumpets, and whether the piece should begin with a percussion intro or not.
Once I actually sit down and start writing a piece, I am totally fixated. If you’ve read my book, you’ll remember how I used to sit up late every night writing arrangements for my band before I even had a band, and the next morning it was as if “I” hadn’t written them at all—it was as if little elves had stolen into my apartment in the middle of the night, done the work, and left the music stacked up on the piano. I imagined that I could almost see their tiny footprints on the piano top.
But now I have a book, too, so I know I have to treat that with respect. In the piece I wrote the other day about marketing, I said that I’d often felt that self-promotion was “tacky.” I think this is a carry-over from when I used to live in New York and had to go around to the jazz clubs trying to sell myself as a musician. If you didn’t have a manager (and hardly anyone did, except for the big shots), you had to do it yourself, and you were most often met with the cold assertion: “We’re booked through next year.” In spite of that, I persisted and managed to get some fairly good gigs when I lived there, so I know in my heart I can do the same thing with my book.
Here’s a bit of shameless self-promotion!