Aside from writing, the only other thing I’ve done with as much long-time passion and diligence is play live music. I’ve been rocking out in bars and clubs all over Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana since I was 25 years old, first on drums, later on bass guitar. I’ve played every style except ska, hip hop, and death metal. Some groups I’ve played with have been cover bands, others have been original indie bands plugging away for their big break. I’ve played on stages so flimsy I thought my bass rig would shake ‘em apart; I’ve played on stages so big that I thought I’d need a trail of breadcrumbs to find my way off (this, admittedly, has not happened often). I’ve played crowded venues in Kansas City, Wichita, and Indianapolis, and I’ve played in towns so miniscule that their economic infrastructure was predicated on an outdoor pay phone, soda machine, bar, and post office. But the one thing that has been a common denominator musically for me is that it has never mattered where I was playing, who I was playing with, or what type of music I was performing, because when I play, I play.
Music has always offered me a certain solace, a gift of quietude. When I play, I lose myelf in the moment and the only thing that matters is the backbeat or the bassline. There is no room for the myriad worries that otherwise vie for my time and attention. There is only music, and my part in creating it. In the midst of the 2 and 4, within the swirling eddy of lead licks and chunky rhythm guitar, beneath the arenaline and beer-fueled rock ‘n roll vocals, I find a space of zen-like peace within the moment.
I’ve found the same to be true for writing. At first, I wanted my first drafts to be pristine. I couldn’t fall into a story because I was too busy glancing back at the words that had just spilled onto the page, continuously proofreading and revising them. One day, probably on one of those days when we’ve had it up to here with the world and have nothing left to lose artistically, I bound and gagged that snarky little homunculus, and chained him to our lawnmower in the garage. Now he rides around and editorializes about how my husband tends to our lawn. That’s fine, but I stopped feeding that particular troll. There’s enough self-doubt and rejection in the world of writing without his poisonous offerings.
Now I push myself to write more organically, to lose myself in the story and simply tell it. My first drafts no longer come out as clean, but my word count has gone up dramatically and it has actually made my subsequent efforts at editing more effective. I still have to fight the urge to break out of the flow and go back to fix something. On some occasions, those tweaks and edits are necessary, but the majority of the time I give the tale another nudge and find that the words are waiting there, patiently, under my fingers. Now when I write, I write.
This morning I cranked out about 2000 words. I thought I could hear my homunculus shrieking nasties at me from the garage. I ignored him. This has made all the difference.