28 October 2021 -- Why I Write Songs

My wife, Aileen, recently visited my creativity course and asked the students to work with Terry Tempest Williams' short but amazing essay entitled "Why I Write."  That piece begins as follows: 

"I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change."

And it goes on from there.  The full version of her piece can be found here, if you would like to read it (and I hope you will).

Aileen asked the students to substitute their art form for Williams' writing and to generate their own answers to the question of why they do what they do. 

Below is my first version (because I will surely keep adding reasons as I continue to write songs and to think about writing songs).

And I urge you to take on this task yourself, asking yourself why you do some thing you love to do, and exploring that question to generate as many good answers as you can.


Why I Write Songs 

I write songs because my parents were musicians. I write songs because my parents’ marriage amounted to a 50-year argument over the relationships of love and music.  

I write songs because I am not that good a guitar player. I write songs because I am not that good a singer — and not that good a poet.  

I write songs because I love when the magic happens, when two disparate things somehow come together, when sound and sense somehow join, and a point becomes a line, a potential becomes a thought, a vector.  

I write songs because I am in awe of the unconscious potential of my mind — how, when things are going well, a string of rhyming lines pours out of my mind and mouth and hands, unbidden and yet almost fully formed.  

I write songs because it keeps me sane, allows me to engage with my fears — wrestle with them, soothe them, negotiate with them, massage them, and lead them willingly into a well-wrought vessel, turn them into something beautiful and welcome. 

I write songs because I would not know what to do with myself if I didn’t.  

I write songs because I would like some things of mine — some parts of me — to live on beyond me when I go. I write songs because they are my cosmic “Fuck you!” to entropy, to the inevitable forces of disarray, dissolution, incoherence, atomization, and chaos at work in universe and on everything in it — my fragile and finite self included. 

I write songs because I have finally reached an age where I feel like I have some important things to say.  

I write songs because I have finally reached an age where I feel “post-cool,” where I am no longer interested in trying to fit in, in trying to be something other than what I am, in trying make other people like me, and am far more interested in trying to find and nurture and tell the truth, my truths, in whatever time I have left on the planet.  

I write songs because not writing songs now seems incomprehensible, when in reality, the idea of writing my own songs as a solo singer/guitarist seemed totally ridiculous just a couple of years ago.  

I write songs because I think I have some glimpses into the greater significances hiding in plain sight all around us that only artists and art have shown me before. I write songs because I want to contribute to this bittersweet and achingly important human endeavor, because I want to pay back all this ferocious love and generosity. And I write songs because I want to pay it all forward, want to bring some new folks into the fold and urge them along in my small wake.

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