A few years ago, I wanted to write a letter to the Afghan man who had lost 11 members of his family (8 of them children) at the hands of a US Army sergeant who broke into innocent civilians’ homes at night and killed them. I felt I had to do something. I wanted to tell this surviving father that I was deeply sorry. I wanted to offer something, but I got lost in the minutiae of it. I thought, he probably doesn’t speak or read English so he couldn’t read my letter. I also became afraid that he’d be angry with me or that a letter would be insignificant in the wake of what he was facing. Then, I thought I’d waited too long. Essentially, I gave up.
This email is a promise both to myself and to you that the next time I have an idea that won’t let go of me, I will act on it.
A lot of my ideas I do follow through on. Years ago, after my grandmother died, I was so bereft in her absence that I began visiting an 88-year-old woman named Alma in a senior center in South Bend. Alma’s family lived far away and she was lonely for them. I figured: “I’m a sad granddaughter, she’s a sad grandmother, we’re a good match” Alma and I had visits every Saturday until she died a few years later.
There was, of course, the initial hump to get over. I had the idea, but there was no “visit a senior program” that existed where I lived, so I had to just wander into a senior center and look for someone who looked like they might want a visitor.
In other words, I had to get past the weirdness, self-doubt and possibility of someone saying I was a security breach . “Whom are you here to see?” “Um, not sure yet, someone who might like a visitor?”
In my daily life, I have my ideas about how things should/will go and they don’t always go as planned (of course). For example, this week my youngest was having problems at camp and I had to pick her up early. Then, my daughters’ swimming lessons (for which they were SO excited) were cancelled.
I love paying attention to what happens AFTER things don’t go according to plan. On this particular day, we ended up making indoor and outdoor obstacle courses instead of swimming. Pretty awesome.
My process with songwriting is similar. I make plans for what I want, follow through on my initial ideas, but I also stay open and adapt when those ideas morph and change.
I call it “The Tell & The Ask” and it’s helped many songwriters create & complete their visions especially when they feel stuck or confused about how to proceed.
Feel free to experiment with this and let me know how it goes for you! I always love hearing from you.
When we take action on our ideas (like if I had written a letter to that Afghan man) we actually have better stories to tell, better songs to write. We all have better things to make when we create better lives.
I’m all in favor of writing songs about the injustices in the world, but what’s the next step? What about also writing about the mending action you took or quirky loving thing you did? Go do that thing and THEN write your song. I’d like to hear that song
Some days it feels like we live in a very intense time and world but, we are powerful beings and our intentions matter.
So let’s put our visions out there, make them real and all the while, stay open to them even changing for the better!
Feel free to leave a comment below.