Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Adding to the Noise

Lately I've been locking myself in our back room and trying to write songs. I like to sing and play guitar and all that cliched nonsense, in case I haven't told you yet. Actually, it's kind of the one thing I like to do most. I sang in Catholic church when I was young and I sing at our church now, and in college I sang all the time, to the point at which my roommates had to codify rules regarding when singing was and was not permitted. (It was more about when the singing of CELINE was or was not permitted but that's just splitting hairs, because 99% of my repertoire is Celine. Not really, but kind of. )

So I've been trying to write and trying to believe in that whole idea that forcing myself to stare at walls until something comes out will work. (By "something comes out" I mean until a song comes out of my brain, not until something comes out of the walls, although I wouldn't be totally against that happening because it would probably be good material for a song.) But I keep asking myself this horrible question, and I know it's not helping with the creativity flow problem. But really - what if I have nothing to add?

On my way to work I listen to KLove, which is the most cheesiest of the cheesy Christian radio stations in all the land. I love how it makes me feel. It feels like a nice, soft hug that says "mmmm, mornings are hard. That's ok. Let's just ease into it." But the songs! I can't speak to the hearts of these artists, obviously.  And I'm worried that what I'm getting at here is a bit judgmental, but it is important to me to flesh this out. The songs are really, really terrible for the most part. They are the exact same as the one that plays before them and the one that plays after them. Same 4-5 chords, even. Same tempo, same exact lyrics in many cases. They're shallow and sometimes they don't even have a cohesive thought - they're just a bunch of "Christian phrases" strung together ("I stand amazed at You"/"You saved me from the storm (there is always a storm)"/"Jesus we love you" etc.etc.)

Are all these hundreds upon hundreds of artists really adding anything? Is it wrong to wonder if their time might be better spent elsewhere, in a 'profession' that every moody twentysomething with Garage Band and a Jesus tattoo is not trying to get into? And what about me? Could I possibly have something to add? Is it presumptuous to even ask that?

I do recognize that even the most bland, unoriginal song can still mean the world to someone because of the moment they hear it or who they're with or how it happens to touch them that one time. And maybe that's something? But is that worth me spending hours trying to write music when I could be spending those hours volunteering at the hospital or visiting the nursing home or some such tangible "giving up of my time"?

When I've run into this panicky type of frustration before, I've convinced myself that when we're trying to decipher a calling, we should read into what we like to do and what we're good at. I like to sing and I'm good at it. But could that really be all that's required? Turn on the TV - EVERYONE likes to sing. Not everyone is good at it, but A LOT of people are. So what now?

It's hard when you believe in God and Satan, because in the back of my mind during all this identity crisis nonsense I have to wonder if this is just Satan trying to get me off my game. Because it's hard to be creative when I'm simultaneously thinking about there being "nothing new under the sun" and the fact that it's pretty noisy out there anyway, so what will one more strum really contribute?

But then also in the back of my mind I have to wonder if this is God, giving me a bit of a nudge. Last night I read this:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others." - Philippians 2:3

So? Is my music really "in the interest of others"? Is it just something I like to do? Are those two things aligned in this case?

OH MY GOSH. Remember that Switchfoot song - "If we're adding to the noise/turn off this song." Was that feigned self-sabotage or pure genius? MAN, IF THEY HADN'T WRITTEN THAT MAYBE I COULD HAVE, BUT THEY DID AND I DIDN'T AND THAT'S WHY LIFE IS UNFAIR. ("You know, the first time I saw the iPod, I just... I really could've kicked myself.")

And suddenly I need a nice, warm, predictable hug from mid-morning KLove.

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