July 28, 2010
It’s what makes music so intoxicating…
And I’m convinced that when we are in the throes of being intoxicated with music and emotion, that’s when we open the door to the world of spirit and endless possibilities. (Many who experience Nirvana do so through music—there was even a band by that name.)
I’ve been to more than a few live concerts where the performers seemed merely to be going through the motions, as if they couldn’t wait to finish the job and get off the stage. That made me feel cheated because they weren’t giving it their all, especially since I’d spent my hard-earned dollars to see the show.
This goes for writing as well.
Over the course of working on DANCE OF THE ELECTRIC HUMMINGBIRD, I struggled with how much to reveal in my book. How did I maintain my privacy and still get my message across? I’m just an average person—this book is my soul—did I really want to let the whole world into my soul?
To say this is frightening would be a gross understatement.
The song “Pages,” by 3 Doors Down, explains it perfectly. What a great song.
My solution was simply to be vague about the things that were too personal or painful to talk about.
But my editor said, “Uh uh, sorry, you have to spill.”
Oh man, okay. Reluctantly, I added a little detail.
To this, she said, “Nope—take us there with you—give us all of it!”
I didn’t want to. Speaking out is an enormous responsibility. Once my words are out there, there’ll be no changing them—they’ll be public property forever.
As I fought my internal demons, I came across an article that dealt with this very thing. An author who wrote about her relationship with her daughter, also struggled with how much to say in her book—would she be betraying her daughter by telling the truth? After a lot of deliberation, she decided to be honest. The publication of her book was met with mixed reviews. Some criticized her for exposing her daughter’s personal information, but many more went to great lengths to thank her, saying that her story helped them improve their relationships with their own daughters.
It made sense to me that this was what I should do too, because the purpose of my book is also to help others improve their lives—but even reading about that woman didn’t completely convince me.
I trusted my editor’s professional opinion though, and worked diligently at dredging up horribly emotional and personal subjects like the deaths of my parents whom I adored, and the physical and sexual abuse I endured at the hands of a young man I married when I was no more than a kid myself. It was like pulling pure bile from my liver and splashing it on the page because I had to relive every detail all over again and analyze each one.
There’s also a candid sex scene in my book, and many instances where I question religion, the existence of God, supernatural phenomena, aliens, angels and the power of the mind and spirit. I know that some will criticize me—I may even lose a few friends over what I’ve said—but I just might gain a few too. In any case, I didn’t want to offend anyone.
Then I heard the song “Hooker with a Penis,” by Tool (warning—explicit content on this website). The song is about a fan who tells his idol that he thinks he’s selling out. But the idol says that he sold his soul long ago—just to make his music…
That truth sunk into me like rain into parched earth. Tool was right—it is about selling one’s soul. And my book is all about finding and living one’s truth. How could I sufficiently convey that message if I was too afraid to speak my truth—and yes, sell my soul in the process?
Because if artists don’t sell their souls, no one will be able to relate. It’s a tremendous price to pay—look at what happened to Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison to name a few—but it’s also an area where there can be no compromise. The audience knows instantly when the artist is withholding something.
Soul is the difference between “outstanding” and “mediocre.” And in this instance, if one wants to make an impact, there’s no room for mediocre, because in the end, the audience will either feel inspired or cheated.
Depends on how much guts the artist has.