Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Songwriter Envy

Last week, I sent out my completed novel to my agent. To be more accurate, I sent her the completed rewrite of my novel, a process that took approximately nine months. Yeah. That's a very telling amount of time. I wish I could say that sending my book this time was a hallelujah moment, but I didn't even bother to break open the wine bottle that night, because the truth is that I don't know if this was a significant moment.

I have been working on this novel for over three years, sending versions back and forth across the ethers so my agent and her minions can return it to me chock full of notes which usually sends me  into a creative and emotional tailspin. I could have gestated two baby elephants in that time. My dad keeps asking me, "What am I supposed to tell people when they ask people what you are up to?" I know. People ask me, too. I don't know what to tell them. I'm working on it. It was easier when I worked on the first novel. I was employed (going all Clark Kent) as a fabric designer. Nobody suspected I was actually Superman working on a novel. They didn't ask. I didn't have to give out progress reports.

I have other novels that haven't seen the light of day and never will. I also have parts of novels that are in various stage of completion. I have often said that in my next life I am going to be a songwriter. If you write a song and it sucks, you just throw it away, grumble for a day or two, and write a new one.  It is true that I don't know exactly how long it takes most people to write a song, but my daughter can crank one out in an afternoon if she is fueled with enough angst. As her mother, I've given her the needed motivation on several occasions. (Taylor Swift's mom will back me up on this.)

Last night, we had the pleasure of sitting down with two musician/songwriters over drinks at our friend Cynthia and David's barn. Shawn and Jordyn,  newlyweds who make up the harmonic alternate folk duo, Flagship Romance, were taking a night off from their 60+ stop Honeymoon tour. (Let me be clear: although, I want to be a songwriter in my next life,  I'll let someone else take those songs on the road. I am not cut out for the gypsy life.) Flagship Romance have been past features in Cynthia and David's summer Barn Concert series, and Mark and I don't miss a barn concert if at all humanly possible. Being barn groupies, we pretty much invited ourselves over when we heard that Shawn and Jordyn were in town. We buffered our arrival with the gift of good beer. Know thy audience!

I told them of my songwriter aspirations which are basically novelists woes in disguise. They regaled us with stories from the road which is another reason to befriend traveling minstrels--to get the news from outer kingdoms. More than that, we all sat around in easy camaraderie, talking influences and nodding to great musical performances. We moved onto the subject of audience/reader interpretation of material and how an idea that started off in our head becomes its own magical creature once the public braids their experiences into what we mistakingly own as our creations.

Impromptu gatherings with the artist set are par for the course here--but never mundane. I count myself lucky to be able to have exchanges with so many artists and art enthusiasts, those who live here and those who are traveling through Arden. They are the springboards to important conversations. What is art? Who has ownership of it? How can we collaborate? How do we get paid in this new electronic economy? What other mediums inspire us? How do we make sense of our world? Craft beer lubricates these dialogs which always seem to end in song when the musicians are in town. I take these lyrics and melodies home with me where I process them over a night's sleep. My dreams take ownership of them--possibly to transform them into more of what I do. After all, they are part of the novelist's experience now. It is a true Möbius strip.

Flagship Romance headed south the next day, and with them went my songwriter fantasies. I am a novelist and sometimes painter. I know my place in the order of things. My book is in the cloud now. The cloud--an image that used to represent heaven, is my artistic purgatory. That's fine. Time to pick up a paintbrush.

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