When teachers reported for duty last year I was in Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and Song School at Planet Bluegrass. I had a few moments of panic, but then I sat by the St. Vrain River, heard amazing music, was cajoled by my pals and got over it pretty quickly. I've pretty much stayed over it. In September I was offered an amazing part time job slinging soap and then I was offered another part time job supervising student teachers. Score and score.
I worked it out to have Tuesdays off. Hope and I took turns driving the hour between our houses on Tuesdays and had a standing once-a-week music appointment. In the spring, most of those days included Jessica and Star Belle practice. I also finished out RealWomenRealSongs completing every assignment like the nerd that I am. The Mrs. Dunbars played gigs in St. Louis and Wisconsin. Star Belle played some great shows and got on the local news which has led to more great shows. I played solo gigs here and there. My life and my heart have been filled up with music. Score and score.
I also started work on a new and scary adventure: writing a novel. I have always imagined that I would do it. I have thought about it since I was a kid but never had the wherewithal to get started. In September I started and worked on it piecemeal throughout the year. My friend Nikki and I met regularly just to sit side by side and write, holding each other accountable to keep working on our projects. As summer approached I made a push to finish the first draft. I got to the end of my story, let it rest for a couple weeks, then did round one of serious edits and rewrites. The bad news was that the beginning was terrible. The good news was that I had learned so much and my writing had improved by a huge margin by the end of the novel. The trick was to get the beginning to match the end. In this case, "trick" means killing my darlings, starting from scratch, and pep-talking my way through it.
By July I had a draft I felt okay about. I knew it wasn't done. I knew it wasn't there. I knew I needed input. It needed readers. This, my friends, was terrifying. I have grown accustomed to getting feedback on songs. Songs that contain three verses, a chorus, and a bridge. That's like 300 words (I just checked one song at random and it has 289) and I usually work on a song for a couple days or a couple weeks, a few hours at a time. And I feel like I know how to write a song--they aren't all stellar and the process varies--but I get it. The novel is around 40,000 words (at this point, it's a novella, but I'm working on it) and it took me nine or ten months working several hours per week on it. I also wrote it having no clue if the process was creatively helpful or efficient, and having zero experience judging my own work of this kind. I know if a song is a stinker, but prose? Clueless. Uncharted waters, friends.
I am working on a song right the now, the chorus of which says, "It's not that I am not afraid/I just do it anyway." What's the point of writing a book that no one reads? What good is sitting with a project hoping I've done it well without ever seeing how it measures up?
So, I sucked it up, made six copies, and sent it out. Some went in the mail but most I dropped off in mailboxes, hoping I didn't have heart attack while driving around town. Now I am in the process of receiving thoughtful and helpful feedback from super smart friends who agreed to help me in this tricky endeavor. It's clear where the problems are and what needs tweaking and I am hatching a plan to finish it up when I get back from Song School. I should say for the record, writing fiction is very fun. It turns out I like making stuff up. So, what will become of it? What's the end game? Well, gee, wouldn't we all like to know the answer to that about this project as well as...EVERYTHING. Right now the plan is to do good work and see what comes.
So, this is where I stand one year later. Thanks for all support as I closed my eyes and took a leap. Guess what? A net appeared.