|Posted by Nancy Elliott on August 20, 2018 at 11:35 AM|
August 20, 2018 Monday
I write to explore. To learn who I am today, right now, who I am becoming and what my world is made of. To stay in my journey and find my direction in my journey, I have to write. I write to understand an experience, to lay it out on the paper, all blood, bones and guts, stir it around, re-arrange it again and see if it goes back together. And if it does, are they any extra parts leftover and what does that mean? I write to pare my mind down to the reality of the mystery, the next step, the next stop. I write with faith (faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen) that the writing is part of my journey, the map of my journey and a compass by which I am guided.
Mostly,I write for me. Because of all of the above and because of things I cannot explain but hope to, one day. Hope, here, is hope that is knowing without a doubt. Not a sickly, weak hope of "well, I hope so..." which has no hope at all and is just something to say.
But, do I write for you? No. I don't aim a word or a line or a song at any one person or group. If I write for you, we would both be disappointed because I would worry if you liked my writing or not and you would feel compelled to like or "like' my writing. Worst of all, that kind of writing feels mendacious to you and me. That kind of writing, worrying if you will "get it" or not, if you will understand my meaning, appreciate my twist of words and rhyme is not how I write. Letters are written to someone. Letters are where you make sure the other person knows what you mean.
Part of my writing journey is reading, a lot of reading. Reading other's works helps you find your own words, gives you new thoughts to process from, angles you have never considered. I have often said that if it were not for Libraries I would be broke and have no room in my house. I do keep a collection of favorite books, though. Even when I worked in the parks and spent time living in a small tent, I kept a shelf of books. It was actually a wooden crate turned on its side with the books on the lower shelf and my lantern and such on the top shelf. A book I have always had a copy of is "A Sorrow In Our Heart, The Life of Tecumseh" by Allen W. Eckert. "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George is another, although I think it is with the one of the grand kids right now. That kinda worries me some. Both books read as though they were the author's exploration of their own curiosity. And that's what makes them exquisite. Who was this man, Tecumseh? Did he really love Rebecca Galloway? How far west did he travel with his predictions of a total eclipse and an earthquake that would change the course of a mighty river? What would happen if a boy lived in a tree with a Goshawk for a best friend and yearned to discover the land of his grandfather? How would he survive? How would he eat? Dare he make any friends ?
It was a rainy, foggy November morning and I was driving from Marysville, Tn. to Nashville on the back roads. I took a left off the highway onto River Fork Road, a winding country two lane that ran beside a river. Under the canopy of an Oak that had refused to give up its leaves for the winter, I thought someone was standing there in the mist. As I passed I looked back, but I had made a curve and the tree and its lingerer were out of sight. I started writing Cold Night In Nashville right there on the road.
"It was raining when he saw her down on River Fork Road, he pulled over said, "get in, you're looking wet and cold."
A duffel and guitar, she tossed in the back seat then she jumped into the front and took her wet sock off her feet.
He turned the heater up and they drove for several miles 'for she ever spoke a word, then, she turned to him and smiled.
'Thank you, it was a cold, cold night in Nashville. I left early in the morning, and if you hadn't stopped, I might still be standing there, I might have missed my rendezvous, I might have missed it'" ~ from A Cold Night in Nashville, Nancy Elliott 2014
While I will tell or hint at what inspired a song, I often tell a story indirectly related to or, having nothing at all to do with the song which follows it. I am always loath to say a song is about this or that, because I do not want to cause the listener to have a predisposed ear. The misty figure beneath a tree on a Tennessee two lane looks like you want her to look and the "songs he never sang" are, you fill in the blank. I believe that is story to song.
"Write what you know" seems as superficial at "don't tell them, show them". While I understand the concepts behind both statements, I find them both lacking in depth and inspiration. And, in my own search for how to explain being painfully honest on the page, writing from your life experiences, being willing to zip open your soul and let all the world look, I am probably doing no better than anyone else. So, I will lead you to a story. A story is always the best way.
"I Can Only Imagine", written by Bart Millard of the band Mercy Me, is a 3x platinum song. It is multi platinum for one reason only, it grabbed people by the souls of their hearts and never let go. The movie made about the song is by far the best example I know of story to song. " Imagine" was at the theater last March for a short run and I missed it, but found the DVD at Target. Put it in your library and keep it, watch it often and when you get over it, then you can watch it for the lesson in writing anything.
Back in the studio tomorrow.