the art of making art + ignoring the dishes

the art of making art + ignoring the dishes

A couple weeks ago, I spent an hour on Instagram Live, talking with fellow makers about how I’ve managed to raise children, live in community, and also keep creating music. Let me start by saying I am not amazing, nor is my situation unique. It’s not at all unusual to be a working parent. I think the unconventional nature of the music business makes it seem less conducive to leading a balanced life with family than other types of work.

You may feel like you need to set it aside once you start a family, because you feel a little selfish taking time to make art, especially if it’s not generating much or any income for the family. Or you may just be so freaking tired all the time that you can’t fathom having the brain power to make something good.

Well, let me encourage you if I can? I have five kids who are now 11 and up.  I didn’t start working in music as a vocation until my firstborn was three-years-old. I was SO tired for a LONG time.

I could talk for dayyyyys about all of this, but I have songs to write! So I’ve tried to recall + summarize the tips I shared in our Live chat.

pilgrimage

Last night I arrived home from Masterpiece Project 2017, an arts camp for teens where I spend one week each summer facilitating a songwriting studio for 10-15 students. Each year has its own theme which we explore together via a camp-wide collaborative project. This year’s theme was “Pilgrimage.”

Through film and song and words and drama and photography, we talked about Journey. The path. The detours that turn out to be the path. Internal conflict. Interwoven paths. Reflecting back and imagining what might be ahead.

It’s resonant from where I stand in this middle part of life, with the accumulation of days growing behind me and still craving more adventure. I can actually count decades now, and say things like, “Remember 20 years ago when Princess Diana died?”

But even this one day, today, was its own micro-pilgrimage from waking with a neck-ache and no agenda to this very moment where I sit in the dark on my back patio, listening to dogs bark and crickets chirp. I have a small glass of red wine and a bit of dark chocolate I was too tired to eat last night.

The in-between hours of daylight included a 90-minute, unplanned conversation with my daughter in this same spot, where we talked philosophy and faith and relationships. There was a trip to the Y where I was surprised by tears (mine) on our way in, and sat instead on the side steps to the building. My daughters found me and sat with me, too. We traveled across town to a church I’ve wanted to visit and were soothed a while by the gentle tone of the pastor’s voice and the truth on his lips. We ventured into Panera to feed our bodies and Target to acquire tools for the upcoming school year. And now here I sit, reflecting.

Today and for the past week I’ve fought hard to stay present and emotionally-armed as I am reminded at every turn of a painful detour in my life. My friend said a week ago: “The detour is the path.” It’s been bouncing around in my head ever since.

And making me angry, too. I mean, some detours could be avoided, right? Some detours become necessary only because people are selfish and put up roadblocks that affect everybody on the road. Right?

Yes.

So what? Here we are. What are we going to do about it? Here I am taking this unexpected route, a route I didn’t see on the map, and have no knowledge of or interest in. Taking this route is going require re-arranging and will make me miss some beautiful things I’ve looked forward to. I’m tired and my pack is heavy and the view ain’t that great.

This detour hurts. A lot.

 Caspar David Friedrich - The Wanderer

Caspar David Friedrich - The Wanderer

Sara Groves sang in "Painting Pictures of Egypt": The future looks too hard and I wanna go back.

It's so true it hurts my heart to even listen to it. You get it.

But you know what?

We're doing it. We’re moving along. We woke up this morning, and we put some clothes on our bodies, and we said, “Okay, now what?”

Life is story, and in all great stories, the protagonist only grows when the writer allows them to walk through a fire of some kind. We develop, BECOME, more real, more fully human, when our surroundings become suddenly unfamiliar, and we feel out of sorts even in our own skin.

I adore my little back patio, but sitting here doesn’t make me stronger. You don’t read about patience and magically become patient. You live stuff that makes patience necessary, so you get better at it.

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I don’t have anything new or revolutionary to say, just still teasing it all out, this idea of being a pilgrim in progress towards something Marvelously Other than what we’ve seen.

I’m a whiny pilgrim. I'd like to watch “Gilmore Girls” and sleep on my special, chiropractic pillow and have all my favorite people live closely in a town of tiny houses near the beach. Because that’s my small mind’s best attempt at conjuring a picture of heaven. (I'm pretty sure it’s close.)

I foolishly sang, “I haven’t been asked yet to walk the hard road,” knowing it was a matter of time. I don’t want this stupid hard road. Neither do you. But I know this: A road is a means of travel and connection.

The hard road is not a grave.

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There are no roads to nowhere when you’re listening for the voice of the Maker like a whisper on the wind. When the route gets washed out in the mudslide, we (God + us + our loving people) will innovate another way. We will. We’ll feel sorry for ourselves for a minute. And then we’ll get up, clear some debris and innovate another way.

It'll sometimes feel like hiking barefooted off-trail on rocks, but it won’t feel like we’re doing it alone. Not if we pay attention.

And we’ll make up some decent songs along the way.

Keep going, little pilgrim...there’s beauty around the bend.

 All photos by wonderful Lana Kozol, Masterpiece Camp Photographer

All photos by wonderful Lana Kozol, Masterpiece Camp Photographer

Sky, People, Road

 

Driving home around the edge of the city, I balance these three at once...the sky at sunset, the cityscape ahead, and the lane I'm driving in. I’m aware that most of life is this, holding the three together and allowing what I understand of them to shape my course.

The fantastical cloud formations out here in the midwest remind me that transcendent moments are here for those who want them, and helpful, and I do believe in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. In beauty that can’t be contained or quantified. In reality that is marvelous within the scope of our comprehension and without. In mystery that invites us in and opens us up.

Land, water, sky.

Daffodils, low tide, black holes.

The universe, mammoth and outward-moving, swallows my small self and her ambitions and concerns. We are unique, and also...there's nothing new under the sun. My life makes its mark and is absorbed.

And still we keep wanting to make that mark, don't we? However temporary, because we can’t shake the sense that Love expands our experience of time into something eternal.

"Eternity in a grain of sand." That makes all the sense in the world to me.

But front and center are the ones we love, the structures we inhabit, and the communities into which we gather ourselves. I love my people. I love them so much I think I might split in two.  Always and ever in my line of sight.

Friends and strangers.

You can hardly find 10 square feet on earth not filled with the songs of our aspirations, expectations, disappointment, celebration, worship, doubt, our hilarity. Can you imagine hovering just beyond our atmosphere and waving a microphone slowly over the earth, like Ed Sheeran enjoying the sing-along voices of his audience? 

I hear Dr. Seuss saying, “Oh, the voices you’ll hear!” Oh, the stories. Oh, the anguish. Oh, the laughter.

And now and then, silence.

But here I am. On this particular road beneath the whirring wheels of my car. I might see as far as I want to see, but I’m still very much right here on the edge of Nashville at this precise moment, heading in the direction of a small brick ranch on the east side. I’m mappable.  And so are you, wherever you are. Planted. Rooted, or trying to be.

We're obligated to make a choice and take a next turn. Live the one life we've got. Obligated might be too strong. Privileged?

The sky becomes a gift not by giving us an excuse to escape and stay gone. Its good is in giving us a sense of awe, perspective, and humility. In teaching us to pay attention--here on this very unfiltered piece of earth. It's the artist's job and the universal privilege of all of us humans.

I'm thinking aloud. I'm not sure what it all means. I guess I'm just still looking for how to best hold this one life, all the parts of it, together, and not let my vision be obscured by worthless things.

I'm trying to find my way to make something of my road that connects with people and points us to the sky, and back. 

 

 

This one's for the mothers (& all creative caregivers)...

Repost from a while back...in case you could use a reminder. :)

 Mother and Child, 1902 - Pablo Picasso

Mother and Child, 1902 - Pablo Picasso

DEAR FELLOW MAKER,

I’m not the best at responding quickly, and you know why.  I know you know, because you have the same issue, which is why you wrote to me.

There are embers glowing inside you that won’t.go.out even though you have a tiny human or two (or five) to care for and really don’t have spare minutes for artistic flame-fanning.

You have a few domestic goddesses in your life and a few childless superstar artists in your periphery, and as my poet-friend Beth Ann Fennelly wrote:

“I want membership in both clubs.”

If we dedicate heart and soul and all our waking hours, we may at best become “Honorary Members” which feels sort of like a southern “bless-her-heart.”

At least, that’s how it feels most days, because you have:

1. no homemade bread on your counter, OR

2. no new song/story/painting to show for yourself. 

And that, my sisters, is why I write now to YOU.

Because you need to hear the truth.

Which is that on the first day of recording vocals for Feed Your Soul, I cried on the couch in front of my producer 10 minutes before I had to sing.

The truth is I came into the studio 16 hours after making the 10-hour drive to Nashville with four kids, two dogs and 12 stressful situations on my mind.

And also?  I’d watched the Grammy award show for the first time in years and gone to bed both inspired and utterly devastated.

Devastated, because I was reminded what is possible when artists dedicate themselves AND most of their time to their creative work.

Crushed, because even IF I have the talent & skill to make what I'd like to make, I most certainly do not have the hours or money to do that WHILE also raising a (healthy) family and participating in my local community. 

It’s not so much a desire to compete as a desire to contribute to all that beauty that leaves me sometimes aching over my limitations.

So.  That’s reality.  I fully admit it, while admitting also that I chose this full, peopled life and would choose it all over again.  Hands down, I’d take the young marriage, pregnancies, adoption, move to North Carolina, and our community relationships…all these things that made it unlikely (at best) for me to ever be in league with the Jack Whites or Florences but always & forever in league with six other members of the “Most Fascinating & Hilarious Humans on the Planet” club.

I’m saying this for you, sister.

For you, who just know you were born to make something but don’t know where to begin or how to stay awake to do it during those rare hours of quiet.  

You weigh your desire and ability out on a kitchen scale against love for home and family and “normal life” (whatever that is).

I don’t have the practical answer for you and your specific situation, but I have enough experience to say:

You can’t do EVERYTHING, but you can do SOMETHING, and that SOMETHING feels so small and insignificant that it can’t possibly matter, but it CAN and it ABSOLUTELY DOES.

You think if the WHOLE WORLD doesn’t see it or hear it, then it doesn’t really COUNT, but that’s a LIE.

Everything you make, everything you cultivate, everything you tend…it counts,

because you were entrusted with those things by Someone who chose YOU for the job and is paying very close attention, not to charts and likes but to souls.  Yours in particular.

Listen.

I wrote “Held” when I had a toddler, during a time when little else I wrote was very good.  I didn’t have a publishing deal.  I was a little lonely.  But that song started to count the minute I wrote it (for my friends), not after Natalie Grant sang it.

Since then, everything I’ve written and recorded has been done in WEAKNESS and FATIGUE and UNCERTAINTY.  The songs have been written in teeny, tiny margins.  They have been few and far between, just a handful a year.  They matter to whom they matter, and that will remain a mystery to me.

And I, too, have to remind myself of what I know is true.  (“Be transformed by the renewing of your minds…”) We all do.

So that’s what I came to do.  To remind you what is true.

You have been given something marvelous.

You must invest it, whatever it is.

Whatever it is, it COUNTS.

YOU count.

In it together,

christa

Patreon: TuneTribe 2.0

Well friends,

It's climbing toward 80 degrees today here in Nashville, and I'm sitting by the window working through my list like you probably are. My head swims with ideas and anxiety and gratitude and excitement.  I've been working hard the past couple of months to plan the next thing(s) in terms of music. And things are cooking!

A couple months from now, I'll release a new single, a new video and a new EP! I'll also begin the funding process for a full studio album, tentatively slated for a January 2018 release! The process of creation takes energy and gives it back, and I can't tell you how grateful I am every day to do this work.

Working in small margins means you have to get creative, and being an independent artist means community is everything. In an effort to take better care of this tribe and give my closest members what they've asked for, I've launched a Patreon community.  

What is this Patreon, you say? 

Patreon is a subscription-based platform. Subscribers are called Patrons. You can be a Patron for as little as $1/month.  I love & appreciate the word "patron" more and more. A patron of the arts! That's what you are! How does it feel?

Where TuneTribe members received one new song demo per month, Patrons will get that plus more, if they choose. Video blogs, monthly postcards, behind-the-scenes photos, artist journals, and anything else we together decide on.

I'd love for you to check it out and consider coming along for this. It brings me such joy to interact with you, share new work and hear your thoughts!

Get the scoop by clicking here: PATREON

If you've read this far, you are truly THE best, and I love you. :)

Hope to hear from you soon!

always love,

christa

NEW MUSIC + Thoughtful Gifts For Songwriters

Well, friends, the time really got away from me this fall! While it's not quite as wintry here in Nashville as in this lovely photo, it's getting a bit brisk for the thin-skinned (me) and Christmas is a mere 15 days away! 

Somehow between tour's end and now, I failed to post about the two most recent songs released through Tune Tribe! These two happen to be a couple of my favorites this year, so I don't want to leave them out. 

ALSO, since it's December and you just might need gift ideas for a special music-maker in your life, I have some great suggestions for you at the end.


DOWN DOWN LOW

It was campaign season here in the States, and like most everybody, my ears were so tired of the ugliness. Many of us had to be intentional about taking a break from social media because it can become so unhealthy to feed on the strife. It was a challenge to me, too, because I want to know how to be a good listener and share my thoughts in a loving and open way.

So on the first leg of the Three Birds Tour, while I drove from Atlanta to Nashville alone, I kept the radio off and started thumping on the steering wheel and singing this melody a capella. A totally new approach for me, as I typically have to be at the piano to write.

The accompanying artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton is appropriately titled "Noisily Day and Night."

Here's a preview of Down Down Low:


THIS DECEMBER

The last new song of 2016 is "This December" which I also did not start at the piano. I wrote this chorus on the ukulele with my oldest son in mind, but also so many others who are asking lots of great questions about faith and tradition. It has a hint of Christmas and winter, but I like to think you could listen to it year-round and not be offended. :)

This piece of Mandy's is titled - also aptly - "Something I Cannot Name."


TUNE TRIBE + TRIBE SONGS

Digital Downloads - If you're new around here and are interested in getting these and the rest of the year's song demos digitally, you can subscribe HERE ($10) & we'll send you a link to stream/download (wav + mp3) at your leisure. You'll get 11 songs now plus one more next month and the opportunity to vote for the ones you think I should include in my next full-production album. Would love to have you join in!

Physical CD - Order a copy of Tribe Songs, my home-brewed album of all these new song demos I've recorded with Jess Ray this year. I'll send you a hand-labeled audio CD with 11 previously unreleased songs. Click HERE to get your copy of Tribe Songs ($12).


THOUGHTFUL GIFTS FOR SONGWRITERS

INSTRUMENTS or ACCESSORIES

A new or different instrument, other than their primary one...New strings...Travel case...Cables...Boom stand...Guitar stand...Yeti Pro USB Microphone (I love mine!) for home recording/worktapes...Quality headphones...Portable PA...Soundboard...Performance mics...

JOURNAL + GOOD PEN

Everyone has their preferences. In recent years, I've used basic marble composition books. My most treasured one was a small-sized soft leather journal with a string that wraps around it. Small enough to not be intimidating, lovely enough to be inspiring.

BOOKS

Here are a few of my favorite creativity-themed books:

  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  • A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
  • Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo
  • Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison (supposed to be great, though I haven't yet read it)
  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • Linchpin by Seth Godin

I also recommend books of poetry and great fiction, both great food for the soul and inspiration for songwriting!

SUBSCRIPTION to American Songwriter magazine. This is truly a great gift for any music-maker. I only wish I had time to read every issue cover to cover!

CONCERT TICKETS - There's almost nothing more helpful to a musical artist than to actually go see live performances. If cost were not an issue, most of us would be attending a lot more of these events & would be better for it.

Don't just look for the big productions, though. Those are a lot of fun, but your typical working artist needs real inspiration and ideas that can come from enjoying a great performance at a more intimate venue. It's so helpful to be up close and learn how to share music in an effective way without the big machine & lights. 

I also recommend giving tickets to theater productions and arthouse movies. Most of us will spend the money to see a mainstream film that's gotten great reviews. Fewer people take a "risk" on indie films, but those can be the most provocative and interesting. Read reviews & get two tickets so you can go together and discuss after!

HOST A HOUSE SHOW

If your writer is ready to share their work publicly, you could plan a concert in your own home and invite your neighbors, co-workers and family. Being a host is always a gift to yourself as much as anyone else. It takes a bit of planning and effort, but it's so worthwhile. You don't have to have a lot of space or a fancy house. Just space for some friends to gather & listen - everyone will thank you!

SCHOLARSHIP TO A SONGWRITING RETREAT OR MASTERPIECE PROJECT

Retreats - There are always songwriting workshops and retreats available & I speak from experience when I say it can be just the thing an aspiring songwriter needs to take the next step and grow. I am co-hosting one such retreat with my friend & collaborator Nicole Witt in East Nashville January 6-8, 2017 (one spot left), but with a little googling you'll be able to find one nearby, maybe even hosted by one of your favorite writers! (Link to our retreat: "Artist And" Songwriting Retreat)

Masterpiece Project - Masterpiece is a creative arts camp for high schoolers in southern Kentucky. I facilitate songwriting workshops there one week each summer and cannot speak highly enough of this experience. It's exactly what I wish I'd had when I was 16.

Escape to the LakeThis non-profit organization is all about promoting "gourmet" faith-based music, and their annual 4-day music festival is unlike anything else. The biggest difference is that it's small, no green rooms, no smoke and mirrors. Your songwriter will get to sit at the lunch table with the performing artists and writers, talk around the campfire, play at an open mic, and attend panel discussions. AND the festival is usually prefaced by a 2-day songwriting bootcamp! This is a fantastic opportunity, another one I would have loved to have had early on.

DEMO RECORDING SESSION

Help your writer get a song professionally recorded. Cost can range from $200-1500. Find some local producers, listen to their work online and make sure you like what they do, and consider the purpose of the demo before determining your budget so you don't over-spend. This can be an exhilarating experience for a new writer and would be a fantastic gift!

MUSIC

I know Spotify and Apple Music are the go-to, but here's the thing. They pay us next to nothing. The reality is musicians NEED to be paid for their work in order to keep creating it. Encourage your artist to pay for the music he/she loves most by giving an iTunes gift card. Or give a vinyl copy of a favorite album to your younger listeners. Physical CDs for the car. And maybe give music that has stood the test of time, something a young writer can learn from and enjoy.

TIME

If your creative person is married to you or has children, the best gift you could give them is TIME & SPACE. Take the kids for a whole day or one night a week and let her write in peace! Or surprise him with a room or space set up just for his composing. Simple, free, and oh so meaningful!

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS

We all need them, and the good ones are usually expensive. Help arrange and pay for their next session with someone who specializes in artist photography!

WEBSITE DESIGN

You can build your own, but some of us could use a little help taking it up a notch. Or maybe your friend doesn't have a domain yet and you could buy the domain in their name so it's ready when they are!

ONLINE MENTORING SESSIONS

I - and other writers I know - love to encourage up-and-coming songwriters. We don't have all the answers and are still growing ourselves, but we have learned a few things along the way, and it's really a pleasure to share what we have. When I host a session, I like to hear some music and give feedback and then discuss anything the other writer has questions about. It's really great (and rare) to get one-on-one attention from someone just a few steps further up the road. Email for more info: taylor@christawellsmusic.com

Through a group we've started called ARTIST AND, my friend Nicole Witt and I also periodically host online gatherings of about 8 people at a time to discuss particular themes related to artmaking. Join the Facebook community ARTIST AND to stay in the loop!

So I think that's a wrap (heh heh) on gift ideas! Have something you'd add to the list? Please leave suggestions in the Comments section.

Love to you and yours as we wait & prepare for the glorious coming, now just a couple of weeks away!

christa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, there you have it. My quick brainstorm on thoughtful gifts for songwriters. Have more ideas? By all means, share them below!

Love,

christa

 

 

February Single: Lighter From Here

What We Love  (artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton)
What We Love (artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton)

I shared with my email list last week that I won't be recording an album this year but instead invite you to join a tribe of listeners who will be able to stream or download a new song each month of 2016.

Album projects are amazing, but it's also amazing to share a new lyric and melody with your friends while it's fresh from writing and you're still living the story.

So every month Jess Ray and I will go into her home studio and lay down acoustic production on a new tune. If you join the tribe ($10), you'll get a little note in your Inbox each month letting you know your new tune is ready (mp3 & wav available). Download right away, or wait and get several at a time when you're in the mood.

These songs will not be available elsewhere this year, but you may be hearing the demo of a future single, who knows?

To top it off, each track will be paired with an image of an original piece by Mandy Rogers Horton, whose artwork was featured on the COVERS ep.

"Lighter From Here" is our January song, and it's ready, folks. Head on over to The Store if you're ready to take this musical journey with us.

ABOUT SONG #1: LIGHTER FROM HERE

2015 brought some hefty trials into our life, and Lighter From Here is my song of response. It's a new year hope rooted in the memory of God's goodness and of the faithful return of light year after year.

I've written before about my loathing of winter darkness. Well, I was interested to consider a couple of years ago that the longest night of the year arrives just before Christmas. Our hanging of decorations and our songs of Advent waiting and Christmas celebrating are a massive communal effort to persist in hope and survive the shortened days.

By the time we take down the white lights and get back to regular routine, the long night has actually passed. It's behind us, the worst. We can expect a literal lightening, slowly but surely, day by day.

It's not mere optimism. It's a beautiful and true thing, this faithfulness of nature to reflect the promise that light will win.

We may have some winter yet ahead, but I hope you'll hear comfort and even a gradual return to joy in these words and melody.

Hear a clip of this new release here & join the Tribe to get all 12 songs.

LIGHTER FROM HERE

In late December the sun refused to show

This frosty winter has cut us to the bone

But maybe we’ve felt the worst

We’ve been to the bottom

Maybe we’d take the hurt and the loss

For all that they have taught us

And if what lies behind is the darkest night

Of a long and brutal year

We’ll keep our eyes on the horizon

It’s all getting lighter from here

It’s all getting lighter

The sky will be brighter

The days will be kinder from here

We pull the embers into the new year fire

We will remember how wind and flame conspired

To bring our bodies close

And bind our hearts together

Send everything that’s gone up in smoke

Give us hope for warmer weather

And if what lies behind is the darkest night

Of a long and brutal year

We'll keep our eyes on the horizon

It's all getting lighter from here

It's all getting lighter

The sky will be brighter

The days will be kinder from here

It's all getting lighter

The sun will be higher

The days will be kinder from here

TuneTribe Photo
TuneTribe Photo

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 4

  IMG_0353

29 Oct 2015

I’ve been home for three days, hanging with the kids and realizing autumn somehow breezed in while I wasn’t looking and set up camp. Carolina is looking fine in gold & bronze, and even this cold-weather hater is smiling about it. And about the butternut squash soup I made last night and will eat again tonight.

I didn’t post a journal last week. Monday was an early travel day, which left me wanting only sleep & cuddles. Tuesday was prep for youngest daughter’s birthday. Wednesday, family day. We kept the kids home from school (unexcused! Gasp!) and headed to the state fair, which was EXACTLY the right call. So much fun. Thursday I was back to Nashville and climbing on the bus for our last weekend of the tour!

IMG_2898

Several bus mates were ill over the weekend, leaving everyone a bit wary of picking something up. Would have made a very interesting finale! Plumb was recovering from bronchitis, and I was amazed by how she powered through. When your body is your instrument and it breaks…it’s a pretty stressful predicament. It would be for any of us, but especially when you have larger audiences and a busload of musicians depending on you to not cancel.

Connecting with people at the Food for the Hungry table.

 

IMG_2868

Anyway, the show went on & we loved every minute. Apparently pranks are common on last days of tours, and the best prank of all was the fact that Geoff Duncan & Brad Dring had me prepared (as in, nervous wreck) to be pranked during my last set and then DIDN’T. Exhale.

What we did do is scavenge some costuming backstage and rush the Rapture Ruckus set during Mister Roboto for a (somewhat) impromptu dance party. I guess they knew we were coming, but they didn’t know we’d come in style. It was incredible.

plumbtourwigs

I soaked up every late night conversation and listening session, knowing this was a special moment in life. I felt ready to be at the end of this stretch and home again, but not ready to let go of the people I’ve come to love & admire. I mean, you can’t brush your teeth with a bottle of water next to someone for five weeks and not feel pretty tight. It’s a strange temporary reality that I think resulted in permanent relationships. They are good people, every one.

 

Tiffany and I have lives that have circled back together over the years, and I love that. So grateful she took a chance and invited me to be a part of this journey. And overwhelmingly thankful to my Raleigh family & friends who cared for me & my family in so many ways. I wouldn't have been able to be present on the road if you weren't present at home. Thank you.

Cheers to new adventures & new friends & each of us doing the work we were made to do.

Love,

christa

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 1

Photo Credit: Edwin & Joyce Ormeo 29 sept 2015

I arrived home Sunday late afternoon after my first weekend out with Plumb's Exhale Tour. For these five weekends, I am the first (and smaller) of two openers, the other being a band from New Zealand called Rapture Ruckus.It's an eclectic line-up, with RR's high energy pop/rap and Plumb's gorgeously massive vocals set against lights and electric guitar. And there's me with my keyboard. I joke, but in truth I humbly and gratefully embrace my role filling the quieter, singer-songwriter space at the front.

"Come Close Now" especially resonated with people this week, and they often came to the table asking for "the fire song." It makes me so happy to see again and again that music mystically enters the most sacred spaces of a stranger's life, where I myself cannot go.

Our family has been in such an unusual state of upheaval over the past several months that I was unaware of the full extent of my stress level until it began showing up as headaches and sick stomach, which resolved itself once I was settled onto the tour bus.

Here is where I interrupt this journal to send out a public thank you - from the bottom of my heart - to the people in our church & family & community (local and far-0ff) who have taken care of us in SO many ways recently. We have been so humbled in a very good way to depend on you & so aware of how real your love is - for us and for God. And how real His love for us is.

So, for the curious...the highs & lows of the first weekend on a tour bus?

Lows...

...initial anxiety of being completely clueless regarding absolutely everything. Here's something true: If you say "yes" to things beyond your comfort zone, you're gonna be uncomfortable. Deep, huh?

...and...that's about it, unless you count the fact that I never read more than one paragraph of the book I brought along for bedtime (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho)

Highs...

...overcoming said anxieties with experience. The great thing about the first time is there is only one first time. You get over the hump pretty quickly.

...the food. Hello. I asked the bands: How do you do this all the time and not weigh twice as much as you do??? Eat, set up, eat, soundcheck, eat, perform, load out, eat, sleep, repeat.

...the black-out curtain on bus bunks. I slept well inside my little coffin.

...being parked in the Chautauqua State Park Saturday, which was beautiful and gave me the chance to escape for a quiet walk. I need nature like some people need Diet Coke.

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...NOT having to set up and run a portable PA. It's 1000x easier and more pleasurable to play & sing with a great sound system.

...by far, my favorite thing is meeting the people who volunteer at the events and the people who stop by the table afterwards to connect. I have zero interest in being on any kind of pedestal and find the best antidote is to stay busy working alongside other people, swapping stories.

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After four nights on the bus, I was greeted by my brother-in-law & enjoyed several hours with him & my sister, Mandy (of COVERS art fame), sipping coffee and eating donuts & pasta (health).

I arrived home to cool, gray Carolina skies (tropical storm off the coast), a 6th grade science project, and a delicious rice & chicken dish prepared by friends from church.

Daily chores & cuddles & quiet hours of solitude are welcome on these days between travel. Mom arrives to help tomorrow & I'm looking forward to a day with her before I leave.

Getting to do this work is a gift. Obviously. I know that well & will remind myself of that on the days when I don't really feel like getting on a plane.

Today, I'm home and practicing the art of being present.

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Also, I will practice hiding my disgust as a take my little girl & her hamster who murdered his partner and has now scratched all his hair off to the vet.  #reallife

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, summer, what's up?!

Well, obviously, spring & summer are the most wonderful times of the year. Can I get an amen? Sorry, Christmas, you're just a little cold & dark & busy to win the title around here. Everything is nicer when the sun is shining, including me. So here's to the season for making merry & making music outdoors whenever possible.

COVERS ep!

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Thank you for sharing the COVERS album with your friends & family!

I'm in love with the whole project & the way people have connected with it, and it wouldn't have happened without your support. That's a fact.

This awesome t-shirt featuring original art by Mandy Rogers Horton & design by Shelly Eve is available & will re-ordered in additional sizes, so if you don't see yours, please let us know what you need, so I can add it to the list!

TWO BIRDS mini-concerts

Along the lines of making music outdoors, my musical friend Taylor Leonhardt & I spontaneously started something we can't seem to quit, a series of back porch mini-concerts (or front porch, when it's raining).

If you could use a little live music over your lunch break, sit in while we share just one song each with a 10-minute rehearsal & an iPhone.

We've dubbed the series "Two Birds." Here's our most recent episode.

Subscribe to the channel to be an earlybird (see what I did there? heh heh) when a new video is posted.

SLOW TRAIN COMING

Last night, I had the extreme privilege of participating in a collective tribute to Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming album in Carrboro, NC. Esteemed musician Tim Carless planned & led the way & Emmaus Way of Durham sponsored us at The ArtsCenter.

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It's crazy energizing to play together with other musicians. Hoping we have more opportunities to work together!

ESCAPE TO THE LAKE

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Really looking forward to playing in Watertown, Wisconsin, at the end of this month and then heading immediately to ETTL to co-lead a songwriting bootcamp & do a little performance.

Discount tickets available for night-only concert passes (for a limited time). Use promo code "fireworks" and save $5 per ticket (no limit). Tix/Info: bit.ly/ettl15n

I especially recommend ETTL to any of you musicians who are serious about both faith & excellence in art making. It's a uniquely intimate setting where you'll get to spend time with artists, listening, asking questions, being inspired. Join us!

MASTERPIECE PROJECT 2015

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End of July always finds me leading songwriting studio for high school students at Masterpiece Project in southern Kentucky.

I can't say enough about the way Masterpiece impacts students & staff. It's one of the highlights of my year.

The July week is already full this year, but my friend Jessica Campbell will be leading songwriting for Masterpiece the week of June 21, and there are still several spots open. Masterpiece is not just for musicians but for young artists of any medium.  Each week offers specific studios--get the details on their website.


I'll be in Nashville to write next week & will play a couple shows with Jessica Campbell July 17&18 in WV & VA, but in general I'll be hanging out around Raleigh more over the summer, which I'm glad for.

And...a surprising announcement coming soon regarding the fall, so stay tuned!

Hope you & yours are finding ways to be outside, be together & be present.

much love,

christa

 

You're wrong about your age.

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I felt old when I was 25.

I guess it started when I became one of the first to get married in my friend group before I was even 21 and suddenly felt separated from my former dorm-mates who were getting apartments together off-campus. After having my first baby, sleep-deprivation and semi-confinement to the house added to my sense of removal from culture, the working population and my own generation in general.

I’ve always felt like an outsider, like many of you – like most of us? – but now I was an OLD outsider.

At the ripe age of 25.

So when this fresh-faced musician approached me looking for reassurance that he hasn’t yet passed his expiration date, I totally got it; the anxiety you feel when you have exactly zero momentum, zero accomplishments, zero opportunities in sight.

The funny thing is, I do remember being eager to turn 22, the magic age when you’re finally taken seriously as a grown-up with some valid life experience and opinions.

That eagerness to age didn’t last.

And if you feel over-the-hill at 25, then of course you’re going to cry in the shower the morning of your 30th birthday.

Of course you’re going to describe yourself as “early thirties” when you’re 34.75 years old because “mid-thirties” is basically the same as dead.

And you're likely to approach 40 sighing an apology to the world for no longer being relevant and salting every conversation with “getting old ain’t easy.”

UGH.

But I think…you've been wrong about your age.

You’re wrong because you think that number has to mean a certain thing that's been advertised by a youth-centric media.

You think that the number of your years is the limit of your potential.

It is not.

Your age is not written in Sharpie on your forehead, nor is it remotely the most telling thing about you.

Listen.

Those numbers – or rather, the conventional assumptions about those numbers -- are not the boss of you.

There is no need to walk through life like heavy-lidded prisoners in ankle chains, when we have legs ready to run, feet wanting to dance and minds able to innovate and imagine.

Yes, yes, the human body wears out eventually. That’s why we start signing up for 10ks and eating kale.

And so also can we fight the stereotypes that trap young(er) & old(er) alike.

Still in your youth?

Why don't you go blow those clichés about teenagers out of the water by showing up not because you need the volunteer hours but because you’ve learned early to care for others?

What if instead of being fascinated by who "they" are, you find out who YOU are, and instead of doing what "they" do, you do what YOU do?

Devastate expectations by asking your elders what the world looks like through their eyes.  And listening to their answers.

Added a few years to your youth? (I like that framing.)

How great!

How about stepping outside your comfort, so that through discomfort you can step into a more vibrant & generous life?

Keep engaging with the world in the ways that move & excite you.

Stir up curiosity & admiration for the generations coming after you.

Keep being YOU, with all your affinities and quirks, because (p.s.) your license to be you was handed to you in the womb and it does not have an expiration date.

(Note to grown-ups: Life is short enough. Need we shorten it further by inserting a margin of 40 years to be bored, irrelevant and grumpy?)

Like you, I occasionally worry that my best is behind me, that it might be too late to try again.

Like you, I have felt I needed to wait for permission to add my voice to the important conversations.

But you know what?

photo credit: MaryAlice Joyce

I just had one of the best nights of my life, without anyone's permission and with a few years added to my 20s.

Musical friends helped me put together a release show for my recent COVERS ep at The Pour House in Raleigh. Not only was it incredibly fun, but the consensus is it was one of the best performances I’ve ever been a part of. I was a decent singer & songwriter in my 20s, but…I feel like I’m only now getting to really know my own voice, literally and figuratively. Quite honestly, I’m better now than I was then.  Don't be afraid, dear 25-year-old! More good things to come for you!

That night a guy and a girl happened into The Pour House “randomly.” They hadn't heard of any of the artists in the lineup and said it was one of the best “randoms” they’d ever experienced. In conversation we realized we are 10-15 years apart, which surprised them. Their enthusiasm about the music affirmed again to me that we are wrong to assume people are incapable of valuing our contributions because of the numbers.

 

Are you doing the work that is yours to do?

Are you doing it with joy & care?

 Are your thoughts and voice continuing to develop in substance & beauty?

 Is your work meeting someone’s need?

Are you still here, breathing in your mortal body?

 

Then welcome. There is always room at the table for one more choosing to live this way, at age 6 or 92.

This is not a statement about earning potential, nor is it an exercise in sentimentalism.  This is about the community of humankind, all of us learning to see & cherish each other because it is right & it is good & it is in our best interest to do so.

We begin to change the harmful, marginalizing system of age-ism (that travels both directions) right here in our own minds by internalizing the fact that our true worth does not ebb and flow with the hours.

Neither youth nor wrinkles have the power to diminish a reality which didn’t originate in the flesh but in the unfathomable love of the Maker who's devoted to what he makes.

You were BORN LOVED and SHALL REMAIN SO.

Every year added to your life is just a little more time to practice believing it.

That's what I think.

cnw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things I Learned in 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 11.51.08 AM Thanks to Emily P Freeman for challenging us to look back on this year and not focus on what we did not do, but on what we learned in the process of living and loving and working. There could be 25 or 50, but 10 is enough to make public - and all I have time for today. :)

Hope you are inspired to reflect and share, as well. Life is learning!

Things I Learned in 2014

1. My “place” is not my prison. Prison is fear – of staying, as much as going.

I wrote this post about how averse I’ve felt to staying put and how fearful of being boxed in or confined. After growing up in a military family with frequent moves, I’ve now been in Raleigh, North Carolina, for 18 years and am finally ready to embrace this place as mine. Doesn’t mean I refuse to relocate or that we’re done having adventures or that I’m laying down to die. Just means that for now, I love my little city and am calling it “home.”

Same goes for my other places – in music, in friendships, in family.

2. Our home-made coffee is better than Starbucks. It’s San Francisco Bay French Roast, and we order it in bulk through Amazon. You’re welcome.

3. Writing for other artists with bigger platforms is a way I can serve.

It took me a while to enjoy co-writing and appreciate writing music that wasn’t 100% me. I’ve learned to love the act of helping other artists whose voices and audiences are very different from mine to say what they want to say in a way that works for them.

4. I no longer like Texas Bon Bons.

Still grieving this one, as it was our family’s traditional Christmas treat. Suddenly I find them too sweet, too rich. What is happening?! However, persimmon pudding with ice cream continues to satisfy.

5. People enjoy seeing other people try new things.

I’ve tended to think people “need” or expect me to keep doing the sure thing or being the way they first found me. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Not so. You may lose a few “fans” by trying something new, but you’ll gain others. And the people who really love & get you in the first place will always cheer for you being truly you & you being courageous.

6. My husband is a way better independent thinker than I am.

He asks really good questions that often terrify me because they challenge the status quo and challenge my comfort and threaten to not please others. I’m learning it’s okay for us to admit there are things we don’t know, things we may even have been wrong about. It just means we get to keep listening and keep learning.

7. It only takes one big blow to plant distrust.

Since the postal lady missed the stop sign and sped out in front of me, resulting in the total loss of both my Suburban and her mini-van, I find myself eyeing every car at every side street and traffic light, expecting someone will break the rules and hurt someone. It’s helped me to better understand the people in my life who have been abused or disappointed by others and now struggle to expect good.

8. I really, really love my neighbors.

I already knew this, but waiting at the school bus stop this year together and caring for each other’s pets and having neighbors rush out and wait with me after my accident, bringing blankets and offering to pick up my kids from school…just makes my heart grateful beyond words. Also, we have marvelous neighbors not from our hood, but from elsewhere in our city and church, who make life so much better.

9. The Enneagram personality profile is more helpful than Myers-Briggs.

I’ve said if the M-B is like seeing yourself in a mirror across the room and recognizing your general shape, the Enneagram is like looking at your face in one of those awful close-up make-up mirrors where you can see all your pores and hyper-pigmentation. It’s helped me understand my motivations and vices, as well as strengths and virtues. (I’m a Type 9 – Peacemaker, married to a Type 8 – Challenger…makes life interesting!)

10. December isn’t as terrible as I have thought.

In fact, I actually enjoyed it this year. Since I had children, I think it’s felt like a cruel month of yet more work and expectations I can’t possibly meet. This year, with our critters in school, I was able to have enough hours of solitude to be a healthier version of myself and to breathe more deeply. Having them in school has also made Christmas vacation much more appreciated and wondrous.

And I understand now that the lights and festivities help us traverse the longest, darkest nights of the year, so that by the time we take down the tree, every following day brings more minutes of daylight.

11. Okay, 11.  One more came to mind while I was in the shower, where all good ideas are born...

Following an impulse to love beyond expectation speaks loudly.  When my husband's grandfather died in W. Virginia, my dad drove 6 hours to be at the funeral with us, despite our protests that it really wasn't necessary, we knew he loved us, etc.  He wanted to be with us to celebrate Grampy and that was that.  The family has talked about it a number of times since, how much it meant. It would have been TOTALLY FINE to not come, none of us expected it or even "needed" it.  We didn't feel slighted by those who didn't attend. Did we feel loved by his presence, though? Most definitely.

It was just one of a number of times I witnessed that kind of love this year, and it inspires me.

Love to you all.

Here's to 2015 and increasing Light in our days, in our hearts, in our world.

cnw

From Frederick Buechner:

Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world. Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.

Holy Child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again. Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is temptation too strong to resist, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come, thou blessed one, with healing in thy wings.

Savior, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who thou art, knowing only that thy love is beyond his knowing and that no other has the power to make him whole. Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though he has forgotten thy name. Come quickly.

Amen.

Sorrow's Flower: Masterpiece Project 2014

1167237_529469640453237_88041736_o It's a unique place, but i's not geography.  It's community.  A safe place where teenage artists can practice and wonder and collaborate and worship.

We work hard and laugh a lot and commune in a way that leads to deep, lasting friendships.

It's what I myself didn't have as a young artist living "on the fringes," struggling to find people who understood the way my mind worked & longed to express itself.

Masterpiece is what I wanted but didn't know to want in those days.   We want to feed the souls of young artists & encourage them to be hungry for excellence & truth.  We want to learn together the secret of seeing and how to find cosmos in chaos and what sorrow's flower might look like.

I've written other posts about Masterpiece, so I'll let the images speak here.

Look around you.  Who do you know that might need a place like this for a week this summer?

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2014. Hello. Let's Go!

2014 I hang my hat on this peg each and every year and laugh with delight at the chance - again! - to wash the chalk off the board and say, "Here we go!"

I'm one for adventure mainly when in the company of the phobic or the homebody. If that's not you, and you're trying to force me to the high-dive, I'm fairly comfortable saying, "I'll wait down here" if I think you won't be angry/disappointed.

That's what this random marking on the calendar is for, in my mind. The chance to shed scales and weights and tired excuses and say (mainly to self):

Yes, I can be quite different, thank you very much. By the grace of the God who empowers and makes possible, I can see new sights and taste new tastes and touch what I've never felt before. Watch me.

Who cares if the exact details shift a little as we make our way into February and March?  It's not about perfection. It's the principle of the thing: We're not giving up. There is REAL HOPE for us beyond these precise goals, so let them serve to lead us into adventure and a real life of worthy risks and irrational hope.

And, yes, accomplish those goals, if you must.

Rather than sharing my personal resolutions (boring), here is my list of high hopes for you. For all of us, really.  In 2014.  Here's to more truth & beauty made visible through us in 2014.

In 2014, I hope you will:

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Signing out of 2013 with an ocean of love & gratitude for you.

cnw

 

 

Luminaries

Image I see the glow, the flames of a thousand candles, at an hour when few pay attention.

We saw the sun go down too early, as it does these days, but were quick to rush out with matches light up the streets bag by bag, votive by votive.

A reminder:

There is light that won’t be eclipsed, no matter how thick the reality of night. Small fires burn all over that together add up to: Something Substantial.

Something Worth Noting.

Something Worth Being Afraid Of. (If your name is Night or Darkness or Diminish or…Can't-Be)

Also noteworthy:

We gathered early to make preparations, when we could have ridiculed the very notion of a dwindling day.

None who came cared that there was:

A. Zero pragmatic reason to spend our hours this way. B. One hundred percent chance our hard work would be in the trash soon after dawn.

We did it for beauty’s sake and we did it for ours.

For the sake of fighting back in some warm, small way against the inky blanket of night, and standing outside to pay attention.

Because we know in our bones we are alive for just this kind of moment.

Aren’t we?

So let the wind come, Along with the clean-up crew.

I will fan this flame and see it glow in a place untouchable Until I reach a place made only-- and entirely-- of Light.

This one goes out to the ones I love...

Thanksgiving 2013 - A year of much-given.

A year of fear & trembling & trying & saying yes to fear & trembling & trying.

A year of waiting & wondering & wonder & wondrous.

Twelve months of questions & answers that lead to more good questions.

An autumn of waiting, winter of writing, spring & summer of releasing & another autumn of working what was released.

Of being opened for and in and through songs.  The mystical power of music.

This has been a year that’s heard me say “thank you” out loud more than most. Heard me sing how I am made more by your love that imagines and believes and smiles back.

It's true.

And I'm afraid "grateful" doesn't cut it.  I’m a girl with eyes turned down, leaving the room awkwardly, embarrassed by graces undeserved.

Laid low by the deep affection I feel for the people I share this road with.

You.

You (individually you, you are not a blur of faces) I grew up with, share blood with, went to school with, shared an office with.  You I've just met but feel I've known for centuries somehow and wonder how I survived this long without you...

Down the street, in the church, at camp, in the front/back rows of concerts, online…

You Kickstarter supporters. Oh, you Kickstarter supporters. You.floored.me. No words are enough. They will never, never be enough.

You who mentor, friend, pastor, encourage, bear with, cry with, stay with…me. Despite what you’ve seen.

Despite the ways I’ve let you down.

It’s not that I think it’s all about me. It’s that I know it’s not. That’s why it’s so breathtaking - how you love.

So. Thanksgiving 2013.

I give thanks on this day and every other day for who you have been, who you continue to become, to this humble life.

Here's hoping your upcoming year finds you with eyes open.  That you'll catch so much light that you'll be just such a blubbering mess of thanksgiving, too.

Always love, christa

Smooth Like Sand

Image Each second lingered like it had nowhere to go.

We levitated in the early autumn light under pines.

Nothing happening here.

Fingers in sand, raking, scooping, pouring.

Simple.

Two boys, side by side, One mission, to do nothing.

I recalled the little boxes you can get for your tabletop that come with a miniature rake. The point is to be still, practice serenity.

“It’s really peaceful doing this, isn’t it?” I said out loud.

The older boy, the one who has tended toward struggle, anger, frustration…the one who fights me…who has seen me angry, untame, in his face, at my worst…he smiles his quiet, closed-mouth smile at me as he glances up and then back to his “work.”

“Yeah,” he says.

And after a long pause, “When you smooth something out, you feel smoothed out.”

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…………………………………………………………………

Image 4 I need to be smoothed out.

So I rake my fingers through sounds and syllables. Feel phonemes slide into a lyric or sentence or message.

Slowly my wind-torn and uneven soul becomes a shore on the moonlit beach.

You think I am here doing this for you, but I can’t take that kind of credit, because I’m not so generous. I only do what I have to.

As my friend Nick Flora sings,

I’ve got a longing in every part That will not let me be

And though it seems that everything is just fine Underneath what you can’t see I’m dying just to make it out alive

…………………………………………..

Yesterday I was the sand.

You ran your palms over my back Smoothed, soothed Because I couldn’t reach What needed tending. Thank you for that.

We are a see saw, Rising and falling in unhurried rhythm. When your eyes lift, face the sun, You beam, And I take from you some of the Light and Joy I have none of at my weightier end. And you give it, knowingly, happily. Thank you for that.

Tomorrow it will be my turn. You’ll be the sand And I’ll reach For you.

Together we’ll smooth the wind-blown world Into dunes and rows ‘Til time And spirits Still.

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Jealousy & Her Rival, Community

*This is for a couple of young artists who asked me about jealousy amongst artists & how to find community in art-making.  Maybe for you, too? Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 10.11.40 PM

JEALOUSY

So you were sitting there trying to enjoy a performance when all of a sudden something ugly starts to wake up inside you and you find you're staring at the stage and the performer with less delight than dejection, more jealousy than joy.

You're feeling insecure about your work.  You feel underused...overlooked...uncertain.

If it goes on long enough, you start to get really good at finding fault with those "more successful" creatives.  You get critical in an attempt to protect your own sense of worth.  But it doesn't work, because instead of fueling better art in you, it makes you bitter, brittle, dry.

You weren't meant to be this way, and you don't WANT to be this way.  You WANT to be generous and cheer others on.  But you don't know how.

The first track on my album Feed Your Soul is called "Vanity Vanity":

When they passed me over like a penny on the sidewalk

I wanted to roll into the gutter

I wanted to listen in case they talked

Oh, little darlin', you've got a problem

Better treat it before it's too late

Vanity, vanity, how'd you get your hands on me

Goin' to the doctor who knows my sin

And he'll show me what I've got and take me to the river to get clean

Nobody likes to feel passed over.

You have gifts, you're pretty sure, but have no earthly idea what to do with all those songs/screenplays/ideas/drawings.  Or you're trying.  But your thoughts and motives are confused, and you don't want to admit it to anyone else, because it's ugly and everyone else seems above it.

Prayer.

I don't have answers or a prescription but I've been ugly inside, too, and I've often felt like a big zero.  And when I heard someone say to pray for those you do not feel love for, that it would change things, it sounded a bit pious and quite impossible.  But I tried it anyway; I prayed for a fellow artist I didn't know personally, whose success felt, for whatever (no good) reason, like a threat to my own.  Prayed for her to be fruitful and heard and to get better at her work and find more open doors.  I don't know what happened to her through that, but my heart, like the Grinch's, grew 10x bigger.  I found it impossible to ask on her behalf and still resent her.

Doing your thing.

My friend, Aaron Rice, says: "Stay in your lane," and I think that's a brilliant way to say it.  It doesn't mean you can't try new things.   But it means we have to stop looking at what others are doing and get to work.  I really believe we're meant to SHINE in unique, inimitable ways.  The more I take that advice, the more lovely and useful I am.

Giving thanks.

Like prayer, giving thanks has the power to protect us from envy.  Maybe only Mom & Dad care about my music, so I thank God for them.  Give thanks for the coffee shop that opens its platform to the unknown artist.  Thanks for the life story that gives way to song or story.  For the weakness that makes me dependent.  For the older man who tells me how that lyric reached a cobwebbed corner of his heart. I learn to give thanks for my own voice, as unimpressive as it seems to me.

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COMMUNITY

When we moved to North Carolina, I was at a total loss for artistic community, knowing no one and finding few musicians to intersect with.  Art-making can be very isolating, even though music should ultimately be collaborative.  We spend a lot of time in our own heads, and it's easy to feel like the only weirdo in your town (or house).

There are more of us out here than we think.  We have to watch for kindred spirits and create spaces that will draw us together.   A lot of times for me it's meant volunteering myself and my time to creative efforts, however small they may feel.  It's given me the chance to spend time with others who are at least interested in seeing artful things happen, whether they are artists themselves or not.

Some suggestions? You might...

*Volunteer with an arts camp for youth

*Say “yes” to local opportunities in community & church

*Reach out online via email or websites or forums

*Share your work online and let others find YOU

*Share art with often overlooked communities of people

*Participate in conferences for creatives (International Arts Movement)

*Support touring indie artists who come through town. 

*Host a house show, provide a meal and a space for them to rest.

*Join the Nashville Songwriters Association 

*Be willing to travel for opportunities to meet/share/work

*Search the web for like-minded artists & reach out.

*Find artists you respect & ask how you can support them.

*Host a meet-up at a local coffee shop for area songwriters & musicians.

At the end of the day, we need each other.  We really do.  We make each other better.

Hey.

There's no room for jealousy or isolationism.

There IS room for all of us at this party.  Even me.  Even you.

Especially you.

And this last picture?  It has nothing to do with this post except to say maybe we also need to take ourselves a little less seriously now and then. ;)

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