*This is long-winded and girly (see title). You've been warned, men and short-attention-spanners."
Dear Fellow Mother-Artist,
You know I’m not the best at responding quickly, and you know why. I know you know, because you have the same challenge, which is why you wrote to me.
There are embers glowing inside you that won’t.go.out even though you have a human critter 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-she-tries.”
At least, that’s how it feels most days, because there is either 1. no homemade bread on your counter OR 2. no new song on your piano. 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 vocal recording last month, I was crying on the couch in front of my producer/friend 10 minutes before I had to sing.
The truth is I came in to the studio 16 hours after making the 10-hour drive to Nashville with 4 kids, 2 dogs and 12 stress-inducing situations on my mind (which Toby got to hear all about via cell phone as I drove).
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 the bulk of their time to their creative work.
Crushed, because even IF I have the talent & skill to make what I want to make, I most certainly do not have the hours 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 (amazing) local community…all these things that made it unlikely (at best) for me to ever be in league with the Jack Whites or Mumfords or Florences but always & forever in league with 6 others of the “Most Fascinating & Hilarious Humans on the Planet” club.
I’m saying this for you, sister.
For you, who 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 but to souls. Yours in particular.
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 entrusted something marvelous.
Invest it, whatever it is.
Whatever it is, it COUNTS.