I found an old friend tonight. I must confess, I’ve been cobweb neglectful of our relationship for the last couple of years, but, like true friends, apologies aren’t needed – just dismissed with a wave of the hand. We picked up where we left off and started making music again. My old guitar reminded me that life looks better when it sits on my lap waiting to help me tell a story.
I learned to play the guitar twenty-seven years ago this month. My Dad had died the month earlier and, as I was driving down the road one day, the words to a song in honor of him flowed so freely I pulled off on a country road and captured them before they were lost.
Although I don’t read music, I could hear the melody in my head as the words tumbled onto the sheet. I had toyed with learning the guitar before then, but with that song in my head, I had to learn so I could bring the song to life. So I learned to play guitar because of my Dad, even though he’s never heard me play. Yet.
As my fingers felt familiar frets, I was reminded of a quote from Jim Brickman about the violinist, Tracy Silverman, when he said, “He takes me places I cannot go by myself.” My guitar is like that: it takes me places I can’t go by myself. Those are journeys I like to take.
I’ve written quite a few songs, but don’t consider myself a songwriter. I sit in my chair with the guitar in my hands, a pen in my mouth, and a notebook on the seat beside me. Oh, sure, there are millions of songs and millions of songwriters, but when I get done with the song, it’s my song and there’s only one of it in the world because I created it. Who cares that I don’t sound like Garth Brooks or play guitar like Brad Paisely? The point is that my music is an act of creativity and I allow myself to do what all of us are happiest doing: creating.
I’ve written songs about faith; the Flint Hills; the Rockies; my family; and nature. In other words, I’ve written about what all other songwriters write about. The difference is that I write them and therein lays the pleasure. I don’t write songs with hopes of being rich and famous; I write songs because I like to create.
I like this kind of creativity because:
- I don’t have to start from scratch- I use things already in existence like notes, chords, words, and styles of music from which to build upon
- It takes time – I’m forced to slow down
- It stretches me to learn new chords or new word combinations
- My mind is challenged to communicate through metaphors and similes
- I learn new ways to tell a story
- The joy of the finished product is fun to share with my family
I might not be able to make a living writing songs, but I sure can make a life.