“Refine your skills to support your instincts.”
My third revelation was this: I don’t have to wait for inspiration, genius or even luck to strike me with a song. Like other songwriters I will occasionally (rarely) write a song so swiftly that it passes through me like magic. That’s a wonderful gift, and many say that this is the definition of inspiration. But I learned that a well of inspiration is within me all the time. When I’m gardening, walking the dog, watching TV, driving, or reaching for the popcorn.
First there is the writing, dipping into the well of images and feelings, and then there is the editing, when the honesty of internal critic comes to my aid. In either phase, but especially in the editing, I sometimes have to work past the frustration, just keep writing, and other times I have to walk away and allow the well to refill. I just have to be awake and listening. I have to work at the discipline of “refining my skills to support my instincts,” something Rosanne said, quoting her friend Linda Ronstadt. It’s an incentive to keep working, keep writing.
I learned that persistence pays off. This is hard work and it’s sometimes necessary to leave a trail of bread crumbs on the way in. I will probably have to sacrifice parts of my ego that I’d just as soon keep, like my pride. But it’s worth it!
Here are some of Rosanne’s closing remarks to the group. I’ll try to remember them while I’m gardening, walking the dog, or reaching for the popcorn. And writing songs, of course.
“There’s nothing more sacred to me than songs and songwriters. To cultivate [this] kind of listening helps me to listen to my own life. To listen to the small moments that might otherwise just go right by me. But if I’m listening I’m going to get it, I’m going to get to bring something back to my life. Part of it is about not being alone, connecting with other writers. [Writing is] such a lonely experience sometimes, isolating at the very least and lonely at its worst.”
“Your responsibility is to tell the truth. Not the facts, necessarily. It could be the facts, but it’s basically the truth. That means being a truthful person. You can’t tell the truth in your work if you don’t tell the truth in your life. So I encourage you to be scrupulous in your truth ethic, with yourself — scrupulous. Even when no one’s looking — especially when no one’s looking. Just for yourself. I encourage you to wake up more every day, even if it hurts. But keep waking up, even if your heart breaks a little more every step of the way. Keep waking up. Bring it into poetry for the rest of us because our hearts are breaking a little every step along the way, too, and we need the poetry, desperately. We need the songs.”
© Patti Witten