Music and Writing
They are intimately entwined for me. I wanted to be a musician, and I tried, from grade school until my early twenties, but classes, lessons, and hours of practice brought me only a persistent mediocrity that was infuriating to say the least. With writing, I discovered that the returns were proportionate to the effort. I actually had potential, maybe even talent. (Some may dispute this, but fuck them. Unless they are David Mitchell…he is awesome enough to tell me I suck.) I’m still a little bitter about the music thing, but not in a way that makes me poisonous toward those who are succeeding at it. On the contrary, I try to do a great deal to support them, in part because I know just how difficult it really is.
But even though writing is my art, music is my life, and I couldn’t write without it. Even when I’m not at my desk it gives me ideas, sometimes more so than the books I read. When I sit down to write, the music comes on, and I still believe that a little bit of that mood, a little bit of that magic, will seep into the story. The Bearkeeper was composed to Erik Satie, Jill Tracy, Amber Asylum, Rachel’s, Sarband’s Danse Gothique. Night Music came along to Jill Tracy again, El Radio Fantastique’s Stories for Little Atoms, Sketches of an Amorous Window, Beirut, Hazy Loper, and Uncle Sinner. I am in the process of personally thanking several of these folks, those who are still alive; before you think it strange, understand that most of the above mentioned are not fabulously famous, and even if they have a good cult following, musicians can be surprisingly under-appreciated and music-lovers somewhat entitled. There is an attitude that doing what you love isn’t “work” and therefore doesn’t have to be respected/paid for. Or, worse perhaps, you have the fan who loves you so much that they feel entitled to the work itself, or to your very person.
It hasn’t escaped my attention that my musician friends have been the most reciprocal about the creative process and the most interested in what I do as a writer…I’m not sure more than a couple of the writers I’ve met have ever asked me to talk in depth about what I was doing without immediately turning it into a conversation about themselves. Again, I don’t think this is malicious, just self-absorbed. This disparity may be due to the fact that the primary function of a musician is to listen; what they do requires a great deal of introspection and concentration, but they are always listening, to themselves, to other musicians, to the world.
I would actually like to come back at a later date with this: what was it that compelled so many of my musician friends to take up music?
And, as in my case, what failure in life compelled you to become a writer?
(Please take the above statement as 50% ugly truth, 50% tongue-in-cheek, and try not to take yourself so damned seriously.)