Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Have a Dream

“Writing has been difficult lately as time has been scarce, but I love it so much. It's only been the past year or so that I have been seriously pursuing professional songwriting although it's always been a dream of mine. I guess I just kept it to myself for a long time because I felt like a little kid who dreams of being an astronaut, and I didn't want to look foolish when it became clear that I didn't stand a chance. (Typical writer's self-deprecating thought patterns.) But now I've decided that true failure would be never trying at all, so here I am. I wouldn't necessarily say that God has flung open any doors, but He has left a few ajar. And it's been just enough to keep me going, keep me plugging away, hoping that one day I just may make it to the moon.”
-Posted by yours truly on a songwriter’s discussion board two years ago

Well, this is a big week for me. After signing my name on a dotted line I will officially become an astronaut. I’ve been working with a great guy from a small publishing company just outside of Nashville for a while now, doing single-song agreements and a few assignments here and there. It has been such a great outlet for my songs and a wonderful relationship and I have felt the providence of God through it all, as cliché as that sounds. A few weeks ago he called and offered to bring me on as their first staff writer, and, after much thought and prayer, I accepted! So here I sit, awaiting the paperwork, marveling at the goodness of God in my life.

It’s not that this is going to make me famous. And as my writer friends would attest to, it certainly isn’t going to make me rich. To the majority of the population, it’s probably not even something to aspire to above any other occupation. But for me it was a dream and even though not a whole lot will change because of this piece of paper, it’s a big deal in my book. A lot of that is probably because “Songwriter” is not exactly the kind of position that you get by answering a classified ad. There’s this great chasm that exists between unpublished writer and published writer that, try as one may, a writer simply can’t bridge on their own apart from some sort of spark from elsewhere in the universe. That’s what makes it feel a little like trying to become an astronaut or an athlete or a rock star. Those are my back-ups, by the way.

Like I mentioned in the excerpt above, I kept most of my grand ideas to myself lest I shared them and they be squashed shortly there after. It was a defense mechanism. Don’t try to hard and for goodness sakes, don’t let anyone know what you’re trying to do. That way if you fail, it won’t hurt so much. I wrote my first song at 14, then a few more after that, all of which were heard by a sum of probably 6 people. I began writing a lot more in high school, started some garage bands, and then put out some recordings for my local church and anyone else that liked the songs enough to shell out 10 bucks. I remember in high school my junior year they made us all take a computerized test that is supposed to tell you what job is the right fit for you so you can select a college and a major. I had already decided I wasn’t going to go to college, but I took it seriously just out of curiosity. After nearly an hour and over 100 questions, my occupation of choice popped up on the screen: Composer. Even though the title “Composer” meant more like Bach and Mozart to me, I still felt somewhat validated by the little computer program. After all, I did have a dream, I just wasn't ready to go making any speeches about it.

I’m realizing that at this rate, this already lengthy blog will become obscenely long, so let’s fast forward. Actually, I guess that’s a little old fashioned. Let’s Tivo and skip the commercials. Graduated in 2000, went right to corporate work and kept writing/recording on the side. Got married in 2001, kept working, kept writing/recording on the side. In 2003 I attended a little local songwriting event and was pleasantly surprised to discover the existence of a vast, underground Christian songwriting sub-culture, with t-shirts and everything. A little like Trekkies, but with a significantly lower weirdness factor. In the years that followed I slowly ventured deeper and deeper into this network of people that shared my passion and found not only a songwriting family, but also the courage and confidence to admit to myself and my world that I indeed had a dream to write songs on a professional level.

In 2004 I was offered a management deal from some random little firm that wanted to develop me as an artist-writer. That was a big fork in the road for me because it forced me to decide what exactly I wanted, and what sacrifices I was willing and not willing to make. With a new baby in my arms, I turned it down telling them thank you, but that I didn’t want to be an artist, I wanted to be a writer. It was a little scary to make that decision because I found myself asking “Was that it? Did I just pass up my only shot?” But while I probably could have squeezed my dream into that opportunity, it was clearly a square peg and a round hole. So, I waited. Then, a few years later, the spark came. Through a listening panel at a songwriting event, someone gave one of my songs to someone else who gave it to someone else and, three years later, presto! I’m a "professional songwriter".

I have no idea where God will take this from here. I may just keep writing music for church services and for print, I may get a big artist cut someday. Honestly, at this point I would be perfectly happy if things just continued as they are. I am a wife, I am a mom, I am deeply imbedded in ministry, and, I am a songwriter. God has been so gracious to our family, and for as long as He decides to let me have my cake and eat it too, I am going to enjoy every morsel.