Language has been a signature of humanity throughout history and its origins, though disputed among historians, has always been to tell a “story”. Interesting that the word “history” actually derives from “historie” in Middle English and “historia” in Greek to Latin; meaning learning or knowing by inquiry and is a derivative of “hístōr” – one who knows or sees. Whether or not that means that ancient writers were equivalent to “seers” is up for debate, but if you are a writer you know that what you visualize typically manifests itself into your stories. And lyrics to songs? They are simply expressions of language set to tones.
You’ve heard people announce that they’re about to “wax poetic”, and I guess this is me doing just that.
June is my prep month. I am on the way down from the peak of the mountain that has been getting my first novel ready for publication. The climb – it was equally mixed with blessing and curse. I had an appointment today and was listening to a DVD on the way and a couple songs really resonated with me. I don’t know if you’re a music lover or not, but if you are and you listen to the lyrics you may discover that there are songs that are your favorite, not just because they have a great beat or melody, but because the lyrics – or words – to that song speak to you in some way.
As a writer, my head is almost constantly full of noise. Voices of characters, random lyrics and endless files that the processor that is my brain cycles through with a rhythm I have little control over. There are days when I wish my brain would just take a day off and go on vacation. Imagine a 2-year old on a Halloween chocolate rush running around inside your skull and you get a pretty good picture of what my brain is like 90% of the time – awake or asleep.
I was listening to the album, “The Blessed Unrest”, by Sara Bareilles and the song “Hercules” came on. I’ve probably heard it a million times before, but today the words struck a different chord. Because I have no way of knowing if you’re familiar with her work, let me start out by saying that she is a brilliant lyricist. The words that come at the beginning of the song are:
I miss the days my mind would just rest quiet
My imagination hadn’t turned on me yet
Here is this woman, singing, telling me about the fact that she wishes her brain would take a vacation too. The words felt destined to be noticed by my little sub-cranial processor. It got me onto another train of thought. Music, language and lyrics are really revelations. They open a door into the soul of the person responsible for sharing them and let anyone who hears walk right in and observe.
One of the things I enjoy the most about writing is that ability to share. It’s different than the spoken word. Because words have power and are open for interpretation by the reader – or in the case of music, the hearer – they hold some of the inspirational light of their birth; that which was initiated by the originator. I am not talking about a higher power, so I don’t want people to read this and think I am giving some sort of hidden religious speech. This isn’t a speech per se anyway. I like to open the door to my own inner world through the words I put down, invite people to come and ingest them, turn them over in their minds and then leave with an impression.
On June 5, I reblogged a post by Robert Chazz Chute. Rob is an author that I enjoy and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of his ‘Choir Invisible’ beta read group on a couple of his books. He recently had a rather negative response from someone he invited into his inner sanctum. I could relate to his experience. Although I enjoy sharing, there are times when I have opened the door to my world wide enough that some rather nefarious characters have sneaked in for a viewing and left in their wake a nasty mess. Imagine your mind being a museum and a group of fraternity brothers decides to come visit and bring 1,000 of their friends and throw a kegger. That kind of mess. The kind that nearly requires a mental hosing with some rather strong disinfectants.
I wouldn’t call my mind a museum, but my mental doormat has been muddied a few times. In the Sara Bareilles song I was mentioning, she talks about the need to be a warrior and decide between fight or flight. Trust me, presenting your soul in the form of writing can leave you with some pretty raw vulnerabilities. Some days you are Hercules – others you’re like a soggy mop that has retreated to the dark confines of a deep, hidden closet.
Rob went on in his post to talk about the Kübler-Ross model (five stages of grief): denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. From what he shared, it appears he went from steps one through five in a very straight order; front to back, beginning to end. He had his epiphany at acceptance. I read what he wrote, laughed a bit at how much I could relate, and then stepped away. The problem was that things he said kept coming back to me. So, I sat down and looked it all over again. I have to admit, I am proud of the way he was able to “deal” because quite frankly, I have not always gone through those steps in such an orderly fashion. I can jump from denial to anger to depression and back to anger again in a matter of thirty minutes.
The appointment I went to today had to do with those stages, amazingly enough, and getting a little assistance with some acceptance. I walked out of the meeting feeling like I could use about 10 days emotional holiday, a good kick in the seat of the pants and little cry to break down the emotional bile I’d been swallowing for a few weeks. Then Sara began singing and I thought, “No, dang it! What I need is to just be okay with the fact that not everyone is going to walk in with clean shoes!”
Hey Rob, thanks for helping me get to a spot where a little acceptance happened.
I can’t honestly say that I won’t transition into one of the other stages of the Kübler-Ross model over the course of my lifetime – as a writer or as a person – but in the little research I have done, it appears to be “okay” to do so. I can accept that. I can also accept that regardless of how much I share, there will be people who see my words (I am talking writing here) and don’t really “see” them the way I intended them to be seen. A little righteous indignation over protecting those thoughts jamming up my neurons is healthy. Sara may want to summon Hercules, but I’d honestly settle for Jimmy Fallon. The hero I need is the kind that can look good without the tights and trade bulging muscles in favor of some witty vernacular. One that not only keeps my thoughts from running amok like Gremlins yet picks up all the red solo cups after the frat boys exit.
I’ll keep putting the story out there. All I ask is that you be kind enough to wipe your feet just a bit before you visit. No need to leave a tip. Enjoy yourself. And if you don’t leave feeling like you’ve been a part of something fulfilling, go get a burrito. I can deal with that just fine.