Starting Again

The other night my guitar and I had an appointment at the studio where I recorded my first album, after a three year hiatus. My guitar had been staring me down for those three years while I’ve been writing my book, and the musician in me decided she had finally had enough. Thus, I got my guitar, and at eight o’clock last Wednesday night, I picked up my guitar, and headed to the studio.

My new project is called, “A Song To Sing In The Dark.” My first album, “Replace These Empty Spaces,” featured personal songs about a myriad of experiences and ideas. My new project, while also very personal, is ultimately a worship album. We’re going through a dark time right now, and we need songs to sing in the dark. I’ve been holding off on doing this because I wanted to finish my book, but I need to write these songs for me, and also so that the rest of the world can hear that there’s at least one kid who’s not afraid of the dark.

I also decided to start on this project for two other reasons, however. The first is that, I took lessons from, and worked on my first album with the guy who owns the studio, and I’ve missed him. I’ve been dying to stop into the studio and say, “hi,” but I never know when he’s going to be working. The other reason is that, I’ve had songwriter’s block for the majority of the three years I’ve been working on my book, but I knew that working with my friend would help me alleviate that. I’m not always good at being my own boss, and lately, I’ve been finding a lot of excuses to take the day off or hang out with company. I think having an extra project to keep me busy and keep me motivated will also keep me focused.

We’ve already got a decent head-start on three of the songs. One is written and composed for the most part, and another is at least partly composed, but I have to finished writing the lyrics. The third, I’m going to sing acapapella. I want to do thirteen songs total, and right now, I have ten ideas at least loosely figured out. I’ll be headed back over there tomorrow, and I’m hoping we can start recording some stuff.


In looking through the titles of my last several blog posts I’ve realized that winter puts me in a bad mood. I’ve known that for years, but I’m not sure it’s been so strikingly obvious. I guess it’s just kind of funny. Anyway, at least for now there isn’t really a point to this post. I had meant to work on my mythology when I got home from teaching my CCD kids, but my cousin came to visit and then I answered an email from another cousin, and now I definitely have writer’s block. In other words, I am definitely procrastinating.

I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter books. I’m a little way into the Chamber of Secrets now. I know I mentioned before that I gave up TV and movies for Lent, and I have to say; Lent has never felt so long. It’s also been cool, though. I’m praying more, and even though the waiting is a giant pain sometimes, by now I know that I didn’t bite off more than I can chew, and that’s kind of awesome because I LOVE a good show or a good movie. I also love a good challenge, and as long as it’s not going to actually hurt anyone, I kind of like picking fights, so I figured I’d pick a good fight with myself. So far, it looks like I’m winning.

This past weekend I bought a present for my brother. This past Christmas he got me a present and I didn’t get him anything because we don’t usually exchange gifts, so I figured I’d get him something for Easter. I got him a loop machine. He plays guitar and bass, and after an annoyingly short period of time, he’s a much better musician than I am, even though I’ve been playing much longer. He’s more technically skilled, but only plays covers. I’m not super skilled, but I write songs, so I guess it depends who you ask. I just thought the loop machine would be fun for him to play with.

I did go to Universal with my family last month. There are some perks to Muscular Dystrophy. I get to skip lines to get on the rides. I’m kind of an idiot. I went on all the scariest rides as much as I could. It’s quite possible that my version of heaven is just an absurd never-ending roller coaster madness. Of course while we were there–at the park I mean–I was a huge Potter nerd, too, but let’s face it, if there’s magic or aliens or weirdness involved, I’m all over it, whatever it is.

Lately I’ve been wanting to sing. I just want to sing. I’ve been wanting to be in a band or a duo or whatever for an insanely long time, but I can’t seem to find anyone to team up with. I think part of the problem is that I’ve really wanted to stick to the same or a similar genre that my original album is, but at this point, I just want want to sing. I’ll sing for pretty much anyone. I’ve had serious musical writer’s block for a long time partly because I’ve just found playing by myself boring at this point.

In my world guinea pigs can fly!



Last night I realized something. I watched a movie with my dad, like I do most nights, and one of the main characters gets kicked out of her band because she’s pregnant. One of her band mates says to her, “Look, being a mother is way more important than being in a band.” I don’t ever want kids. Being a mother sounds to me like a miserable, thankless existence. You have to give up all your hopes and dreams for at least eighteen years (actually the rest of your life if you want to be a good parent) to cater to these insufferable nuisances we call children. It’s easy to see it that way if you look at it from a selfish perspective. I am selfish in that respect.

However, last night I was able to see it in a different light. Lately I’ve been fascinated by the Eucharist. Something in me knows that it’s the most important thing on Earth. I mean that quite literally. It’s the one thing through which humans and God can actually, physically touch, but it goes even deeper than that to a level that I can’t really even express. I’ve said this before, but I know that I want to find a way to give myself entirely to God. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do that. I’ve been rereading the Gospels–not that I haven’t done this several times before–but I haven’t spent much time on this one thing that Jesus says: “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.” I never put two and two together, but I’ve always felt like being a mother must be like some kind of self-death. It’s probably about the biggest sacrifice I can think of.

This also pertains to something else Jesus says: “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.” Millions of women sacrifice comfort and happiness on a daily basis so their kids can have awesome childhoods. My mom loves kids. Even before she was a mother, she knew she wanted grandchildren. I know I will have to disappoint her. My mom is wicked good at what she does. She was meant to be a mother. Before I was diagnosed with MD, and before my family moved to Boston, she was making more money than my dad. She gave up a fun social life and a promising career to take care of me.

Sometimes God makes us give up something we desperately want or value very highly in order to obtain something better. We don’t always know what that better thing is. I also think that, in hindsight, what seemed like a sacrifice at the time, was really worth it. I know this because my mom is hard on my brother and me. I know she’s proud of what we’re doing, and she wants us to keep succeeding at what we do. She’s happy that I’m an artist. She wants me to be an artist. When I graduated, she told me not to look for a job. She said, “You’ve been making stories your entire life. Write a book.” I don’t think most mothers would say that to their kids. I was ready to “sell out” and she wouldn’t let me. That’s still crazy to me.

I don’t know the full extent of what my mom sacrificed when she decided to have kids. She’s said you can’t understand what being a mom means until you are one. I do know that what a mom does for vulnerable little kids, she does for God in some way. For a multitude of reasons, I can’t and shouldn’t be a mom. As I said, I don’t want to be, anyway. Still, until I put it into perspective with these two things Jesus said, I saw it in a completely negative light. It only seemed like a punishment one inflicted on herself for no good reason. Now I see it more like a dance or an intricate painting. I can’t pull it off, and I’ll never understand it, but I can certainly appreciate its worth.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been a little stuck with my story. I worked on it for several hours yesterday, and I did figure out how to fix one problem. I needed to better clarify something, and I think I did that, but true clarity won’t come until later on in parts that I haven’t written yet. I have so many external motivations to finish this thing, and at the same time, I don’t actually feel motivated right now. Ironically, Part 1 was so much more fun to write, even though Part 2 is so much more eventful. I have an ending, and I have a basic idea of how to get there. I just get hung up on the details. It’s also just such an enormous story, and the sheer scale of it is intimidating. Given that my mom specifically told me to write this thing though, I have to finish it.

How To Slay A Dragon

This is my last essay for my creative writing class. It’s part of my portfolio that I’ll be handing in as a final. I’ve got away with much more than I thought I’d be able to in that class, but I’m a little nervous about this one. I don’t have enough time to rewrite it at this point, so I’m just going to hand in what I have and pray about it. I actually like it, it’s just pretty weird. I thought I’d share, anyway.

How To Slay A Dragon:

          I think writer’s block doesn’t exist in heaven. In heaven everyone knows exactly what to say and how to say it. No one has to spend 20 minutes fishing around their brains for the right word or rewrite the same sentence 900 times. In heaven stream of consciousness sounds like refined poetry and there is no fear of judgment because everyone’s writing is perfect. Unfortunately, this isn’t heaven. This is New England and writing doesn’t always come easy to us mortals. We have to spend three days thinking about what we’re going to write for our creative writing essays and hours, days or even years revising our work. We get distracted by the itchy bumps on our sunburned arms in the early days of summer and stumped by writer’s block.

          My hypothesis is that writer’s block is such a problem because it’s so difficult to conceptualize. There could be a hundred ways to define it and the causes and symptoms are different for every writer. I don’t think there’s a cure either; only treatments that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. It’s different for every genre and style. Songwriter’s block is different than essay writer’s block or poet’s block and it can be easier or more difficult to deal with depending on the genre.

            In songs it matters more if you can’t find the perfect word because a word or phrase can make or break a verse or chorus and can sometimes change entire songs. I also have to worry about rhyme and rhythm, which can make finding the perfect word that much more difficult. With essays there is also much more time for revision whereas I find it is usually better to finish a song as quickly as possible so that it remains cohesive and is finished with the same level of inspiration as when I got started.

If I had to explain it, I would say that writer’s block is like the Great Wall of China. I’ll be cruising down some highway in my mind in an obnoxiously red car with the top down and the radio blaring and suddenly I have to stop for this seemingly impassible road block, all confused because I thought I was headed for Georgia. The wall seems to go on for miles in every direction. In an instant the music stops and my awesome fantasy car disappears from under me. The sun gets lost behind some storm clouds and I’m stranded, staring at this wall without an umbrella.

I’ve been here before, but the wall is always different. Sometimes it’s made of all the things I have to do and have done and haven’t got to do yet and want to do. Sometimes it’s made of all my failed endeavors and wishful thoughts about what the future could be. Sometimes it’s made of all the things I’ve read and want to read and little snippets of literature and songs that I’ve committed to memory either on purpose or by accident. Sometimes it’s made up of all the self annoyance I’ve built up about watching too many YouTube videos or playing video games for too long when I could be writing and saving the world. These extra thoughts are detrimental to creative flow.

I’ve been told that the only way to beat writer’s block is to write. Even writer’s block itself can be something to write about, so maybe it all depends on how hard you want to try. Sometimes the wall looks indestructible, but if you look hard enough, you might find a sneaky little tunnel a few miles off because the sun peaked through the clouds at exactly the right time and reflected off a piece of glass that was kindly left at the secret entrance by the writer’s and songwriter’s who had been there before you. You pick up your shovel, sit down at your computer or grab a guitar and dig out the entrance of that tunnel so you can fit through and discover what lies beyond the wall.

It can be a treacherous journey, though. The tunnel is poorly lit or even not lit at all. It takes unexpected turns and sends you careening down steep slopes into regions of the imagination you didn’t even know existed. In these places you have to learn quickly if you want to get out alive. Eventually you see a pattern to the traps in these dungeons and find your way to the dragon’s lair. You realize that you have the perfect line—saving the world ain’t as easy as it sounds—and you draw your magic sword and slay the dragon. You finally find the way out of the cavern and ride off into the sunset, riding bareback on a giant flying guinea pig.

It’s much harder to think about dealing with writer’s block in practical terms. It usually takes a lot of time and patience, which I often don’t have. Sometimes if I can’t find the right word or line for a song I’ll read or play a mindless video game so I can think about my song while building a house and listening to music. Sometimes I’ll read Facebook posts by crazy people (I know a lot of crazy people) and sometimes I’ll just wander around and sing. I don’t always find the magic sword right away, but sometimes I find a flash light or a map. Maybe I’ll meet a crazy hermit who tells me a two hour long story about psychedelic disco worms. Maybe it’ll take me a little while, but I’ll eventually realize that it was a clue to help me find the sword and there were implicit suggestions about how to slay the dragon. Sometimes you just have to let a song take you in a completely different direction that you were thinking, but it will probably turn out okay. It might turn out better than you expected.