I was going to be on the cover of Modern Drummer by the time I turned eighteen. I was going to sell millions of records, win Grammy’s and write a song that won an Oscar. People everywhere would know my name even though I was just a drummer. I would be on the proverbial “Cover of the Rolling Stone”.
Now I’m 41 and none of that’s happened. I did everything right. At least I thought I did. I attended a performing arts high-school, I received my Bachelors’ Degree in music from a prestigious college. I played in bands, did session work, made records and did some touring. I wrote songs, started my own band, mailed out demo tapes, played more gigs. I scored some films, got some music placed in other movies. Nobody but my friends and family knows any of this.
Then I got sick. My hands started acting with minds of their own making it difficult to type let alone play instruments. I felt sorry for myself for a long time. Then my wife put a figurative boot up my ass and sparked me back into creativity. All I needed was to find other outlets.
So I started writing. And writing. And writing some more. Of course I thought each and every word sucked and would become yet another hobby I’d enjoy but not make me any kind of a living. I tried to stop feeling sorry for myself as a “failed musician” or even as a “failed artiste”. Those old clichés needed to be shoved in a drawer or better yet thrown out with the trash. Of course I still have those moments, but introduce me to one creative person who doesn’t and I’ll bow down at their feet begging for enlightenment.
I see a lot of articles on line about “writer’s block” and how difficult it is to be creative. It’s so “solitary” and “depressing”. Yes it is a lonely business. Here I am sitting at my desk in a quiet, empty house with no sound other than the ringing tinnitus in my ears and the clicking of keys under slow moving fingers. Do I always have good ideas? Nope. Does everything I put on the screen stay undeleted? Nope. Will each sentence I write be displayed to other people? Of course not. But I make myself type them out anyway.
It’s hard. No, it’s FUCKING HARD! “Nothing worth doing is easy”. That’s the old saying anyway and it’s possibly one of the most truthful statements in the history of mankind. Being a parent is the most challenging thing I have ever attempted in my life. It’s also the most rewarding and most wonderful thing I could possibly imagine. Making art is much like being a parent. You give birth to an idea/song/painting/story/whatever, you shape it, you polish it until it shines. You mold it and refine it. You give it room to breathe and become its own being. Eventually you get out of the way and let someone else experience what it is. Sometimes it even resonates with them.
More often than that unfortunately, it wont. When it does, one thing it will never, ever do though is mean the same thing to them as it does to you. They may get a glimpse of the intent you originally had, but they’ll never experience the same things you did when you were creating it. It may end up being just as important and have long lasting impact, but never the same.
I digress… here I am now at 41 years old. I have all this experience and energy expended on becoming a famous musician and not much to show for it (in the way of finance or fame anyway). My wife never allowed me the opportunity to give up. She nudged me in the direction of writing and I found that I love doing it. The thing that’s really surprising is I actually finished a novel. Me. A Novel! It’s not super long, but the story is there. Complete from start to finish. Hell, “The Great Gatsby” is only about two hundred pages long so how lengthy does it really need to be?
I look at a blank page every day and try to mark it with words that say something, anything that makes me feel. Fear, anger, pain, happiness, love, hate…anything. There are days when I delete every single syllable. I stand up from my desk livid and unfulfilled. There are other days, much fewer and far between mind you, when the words flow easily. Waves of thoughts crash into the keyboard faster than I’m able to type. I finish a thought in love with the idea of this new story coming to life.
I leave it alone to breathe for a while and try to forget. Bring myself back into the real world for an hour or so. Then I read it. I won’t lie, most of the time I think it sucks. I resist the urge of pressing the delete button if I can. I rework it, chisel here and add some color there. I try to make it into something. If it works, I keep at it. If not then I put it away for a later time when I might be able to find some salvaging in the idea.
The main thing is that I write. If I want to do this, I need to approach it with as much dedication and patience as I applied to playing my instrument. I practiced drums for five to eight hours a day for years. I didn’t just sit down at the kit and magically know what I was doing. I don’t think I could do the same here at the computer screen.
I’m not expecting to write “The Great American Novel”. I’m just happy that I wrote a novel at all. I want to write more. Of course I do want my work to be considered “Great” in some way. What creative person doesn’t? I’m no expert. I don’t pretend to know more about this than anybody else. I only know what works for me.
I hope that people who are exposed to my book enjoy it. I hope they tell others about it and they read it too. If my adventure getting to this point inspires someone to pick up a pen, guitar or paintbrush then I couldn’t be happier. For now I’m going to keep on working. Expect to see updates to the website soon and info on the release of my book.