I’ve always written. As early as Junior High I kept a journal and could fill up a spiral bound notebook with a tale and sketches. I wrote several novels before Preying Angels, but they were learning experiences more than anything. The basic stories and plots are good, but I still needed work and practice. I hope to revisit them again one day.
Last year I was in the Nashville area after the May 2010 flood doing disaster recovery work and I realized I didn’t have the state of mind needed to really write the way I wanted. The culture there reeks of creativity and the people there, unlike any other geographic area I’ve been, embrace and encourage it. I could blog forever about the people and the experiences there, but what I immediately saw was everyone’s state of mind. It started when I met a guy and he introduced himself as a songwriter that happened to work for the street department. It hit me as funny at first, but I thought about it as he stepped on stage and played a couple of original songs in front of an audience of other successful and amateur songwriters and performers. It hit me. He’s a songwriter. He just happens to pay his bills doing something else.
That enlightening event made me start evaluating my own attitude of being a writer. Yes, I would work during the day and sit at my tiny laptop at night and either edit Preying Angels or write my work in progress, but writing was not my main focus. Over the months that followed I changed how I thought about the process, my goals, and life in general.
After I got back, I was drinking a beer with two of my best friends and they were talking about how happy I’d seemed while I was in Nashville. Risking the chance of sounding foolish, I told them that I really loved the creative atmosphere but discovered something about myself there. I told them I was no longer a consultant that wrote books.. I am a writer that happens to consult (or do whatever is needed to pay the bills). They didn’t even have to think about it. The got it immediately. Over a couple of more beers, we discussed how this state of mind changes everything with me and my writing. At first, I regretted that I had not made that change of mind earlier in life, but realize that maybe I wasn’t ready then. I am now.
The songwriter changed my life without a note of music.