Exploring The Depths

May 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

As most of us know, life is not always sunshine and roses (or milk and honey or whichever trite cliché you want to insert). Sometimes, things get rough, go badly, take a wrong turn, often because of our own stubbornness, foolishness, or false pride.

Sometimes when that happens, I wallow for an hour or two or even a day or two. Sometimes, though, I get a song idea from it. Such is the case in this instance. While I don’t have the final arrangement figured out, I envision a simple three or four-chord structure, finger-picked in a variation on traditional Travis style, where the chord is picked up the scale the first time (1, 3, 4, 5 or 2, 3, 4, 5 depending on the chord) and then picked in a normal Travis pattern as it has been explained to me (1, 5, 3, 4 or 2, 5, 3, 4, again depending on the chord).

This song reflects on my own shortcomings and my own questions about faith and my seeming inability at times when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

Road To Forgiveness

Seems I’ve lost my way
Not sure where to turn
Memories come rushing back
Of lessons never learned

Darkness all around
I still can’t see the light
Every step I take seems wrong
I’ve lost sight of what’s right

God, if you’re there, won’t you hear me
Don’t leave me in the wilderness
God, if you care, please stay near me
Help me find the road to forgiveness

So many altars I have thrown myself before
And still no comfort have I found
I stumble blindly through the wasteland
Frustrated in my search for holy ground

Looking up, I find
My soul can’t reach the sky
Drowning in a sea of sorrow
But I’ve no tears left to cry

God, if you’re there, won’t you hear me
Don’t leave me in the wilderness
God, if you care, please stay near me
Help me find the road to forgiveness

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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One Week Later

November 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

In perusing the many social media posts some of my friends have posted in the wake of last Tuesday’s election, I have observed a few things – fear and anger. The fear comes mostly from one side of the equation; the anger from both sides.

My liberal friends are angry that a man who pledged to eliminate women’s reproductive rights, roll back gay marriage, and basically pledged to get rid of access to health care for millions of people who never had it before could be elected. (I know, he promised to replace it with something better, but details are still a bit sketchy as to what “better” looks like.)

My conservative friends see the protests that have come out of last week’s election as simple whining, thuggery, sheer lawlessness, and disrespect of our institutions, including the electoral process and the flag. From where I sit, they are missing the point.

If you or your parents or your grandparents had spent years trying to gain something the rest of us take for granted, how would you react to the possibility it might be taken away? Would you “unite” behind the person you see as the main threat? Would you simply get over it? If so, I’ll be the first to admit you are a better person than I.

Because of what I see as a divide, or perhaps it is better thought of as a fracturing, since it falls along any number of lines, I wrote “Across The Divide” immediately after the election (shared in an earlier post). That song could also be read as a lament to the end of a relationship.

I decided to write something stronger, knowing I risk losing some of my friends. However, it is what I sense going on as well as what some are afraid will happen.

Tear It Down

Coat hangers in back alleys, ropes dangling from oak trees
What’s happening to us; won’t somebody answer me?
Thought we were created equal; guess that wasn’t really true
Why should we look down on someone else ’cause they don’t look the way we do?

I think it’s time we tear it down and start all over again
Give the least of us a greater voice; that’s something I can defend
I look around and I see the fear there in my brother’s eyes
They worry that this talk of strength and values is only hatred in disguise

Jim Crow is on the comeback trail; Phyllis is laughing from her grave
150 years later, some still think the only good black is a slave
Guess equality is just for some, thought that it was meant for all
The rich get richer and the rest of us fight; surely, we’re headed for a fall

So many fought and died defending this land
Some died for what they could only dream of, some for what they held in their hand
I’ve got to think some of them are looking down
In shock ’cause they can’t understand

I think it’s time we tear it down and start all over again
Give the least of us a greater voice; that’s something I can defend
I look around and I see the fear there in my sister’s eyes
They worry that this talk of strength and values is only hatred in disguise

I think it’s time we tear it down all the way to the ground

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Music As Metaphor

September 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

I am, I suppose, an odd duck (as they used to say in quaint British comedies and movies) when it comes to songwriting. When I write a song, I don’t really write music. That is to say, I come up with a melody in my head but do not notate the music. Instead, I record what I have and hope my wife and arranger can hear the chords and write them down.

To perhaps remedy that or at least to help me communicate what I think I hear when I write a song, I began taking guitar lessons from an accomplished local guitarist. I tried lessons when I first bought my guitar more than 20 years ago. The instructor, though, seemed to have a one-size-fits-all approach that did not work for me. That, plus the fact that I was not writing much at the time, led me to stop lessons not long after starting.

I hope and believe this time will be different. For one, I’m older (and maybe a tad wiser, but who can tell?). Second, I know my instructor, and we have a number of friends and acquaintances in common, which I hope will help to make me more diligent and accountable. Third, I am writing more frequently and, I believe, better than in the past, and I want to get as many of these songs out there as I can.

I’ve had a couple of instances in the last week where I was a bit nervous and apprehensive heading into something I had scheduled. Last week, it was a songwriters workshop. Yesterday, it was my first guitar lesson. In each case, I got the beginnings of a song out of that nervousness and anxiety.

This song uses music as a metaphor for a failed relationship. It is, perhaps, a bit too clever; I don’t know. I’ll let others be the judge. I simply present it here for your consideration.

Measure By Measure

I haven’t always found the notes or known the tune
Sometimes, I feel I’m living out of time
Seems I’ve always been too late or come too soon
Always grasping for the rhyme

Our rhythms never seemed to coincide
One of us always fast or slow
Measure by measure we lost the melody
Until one of us had to go

We always seemed to move at different speeds
And never quite in harmony
I thought that love played best as a simple song
You wanted a symphony

Major and minor scales that always clashed
Falling in and out of key
Measure by measure we fell out of time
Your song had no part for me

(Instrumental)

Sometimes I wonder how we fell out of tune
No longer singing with a single voice
I always thought that our duet would last
But I’m soloing again; I guess I’ve got no choice

Maybe one day I’ll finally learn the chords
And learn to play love’s melody
Don’t know if I can learn the third or fifth
Living in a minor key

I guess our opus will stay incomplete
A movement now that is unplayed
Measure by measure we strayed from the score
Until our song began to fade
Until our song began to fade

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Why I Write

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Chances are I will never sell any of the lyrics I write or record a hit record. After all, how many 58-year old overnight sensations do you know? Still I write, knowing it is likely few will ever read my lyrics and fewer still will ever sing my songs. So why do I put myself through that? Because it is a part of me, as much a part of me as breathing.

I’ve stopped writing a few times, going as long as a few years without putting pen to paper., but I never truly left it. I suppose a part of me still dreaming of finding success as a writer of some sort, but the main reason I write is because it has always been the way I best communicate. Although I consider myself fairly well-spoken, my communication skills truly shine when exercised through the written word. I also write because I can – and because I still have a voice. This song was born out of that knowledge.

Don’t I Have A Voice?

Don’t I have a voice?
I still have something left to say

I’m not asking for a choice
Just help me out of my own way

Sometimes I struggle
For the perfect turn of phrase
Though I know there is no such thing
I may work on  a line
For days on days on days
Like pushing uphill on a string

Don’t I have a voice?
Though no one else is there to hear?

Am I stuck with Hobson’s Choice
Take it or leave it out of fear

The words inside me
May not be all that refined
And yet, I put pen to the page
In hopes of leaving some
Immortal piece behind
Though I will never be the rage

(instrumental:)

Sometimes I struggle
For the perfect turn of phrase
Though I know there is no such thing
I may work on  a line
For days on days on days
Like pushing uphill on a string

Don’t I have a voice?
I still have something left to say

© 2014 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Lack of Drive, Fear of Failure, or Fear of Success?

June 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

For years, I’ve told anyone who would listen that I would like to be a writer, to write a novel. I would explain that the only things stopping me were a lack of discipline and a lack of drive. I am now thinking there might be a different barrier at work – a fear of failure. Or perhaps a fear of success?

I’ve been someone easily distracted for as long as I can remember. At the same time, the most mundane or ridiculous thing can hold my attention for hours. (Facebook, anyone?) Procrastination is my middle name or should be.

Lately, however, I’ve been rethinking the reasons why I don’t write or at least don’t write more. I still think attention span is a factor, supported by the fact that I have written prodigiously over the years – blog posts, song lyrics, the occasional poem – all very short forms and in very short spurts.

Now, though, I am coming to the conclusion that there may be an equally important factor at work behind my “lack of discipline.” That factor is the fear of failure, something I have experienced in other areas of my life through the years, so it is something I know is in my psychological DNA. Because of that fear, there are any number of things I have considered but not pursued because I did not want to fail or be rejected.

Often, that fear is coupled with a lack of self-confidence. Yet, when it comes to writing, I believe I have writing ability. In this instance, the desire to hold on to that belief manifests a fear that others will not feel the same and will conclude I am not a writer. So I hold onto the writer-wannabe status. I don’t write consistently, and aside from these blog posts and the occasional lyric, I do not share what I have written with others.

But is that fear caused by a fear of failure or rejection. Therapist Barbara Sher argues the answer is no in her book, I Could Be Anything I Wanted If I Only Knew What It Was. While reading her chapter on fear of failure, Sher argues that what some of us really fear is just the opposite:

As far as I’m concerned, people who think they fear failure have got it wrong. They really fear success. If you truly feared failure, you’d be very successful. People who truly fear anything stay as far away from it as possible. So, if you’re operating below your potential, and you think the reason you don’t try for what you really want is that you’re scared of failure, forget it. In your eyes, you’re a failure right now, so how afraid of failure can you be?

But what if you feel you’re not afraid of failure itself, you’re afraid of failing at something specific? “What if I try my hardest to be a writer, give it my best, and fail at that? Then my worst fears will be realized. I’ll know I don’t have what it takes,” you might say.

You won’t know any such thing. If you try to go to law school or be an artist or find a mate, and you fail, it doesn’t prove a damn thing except that it’s hard to succeed.

Powerful words and a bit hard to accept, but I’m sure going to try to do so. In some sense, I have already succeeded as a writer. I spent ten years in radio and television, much of it writing for public consumption. I’ve also written a couple of hundred blog posts and even a few songs that were publicly performed. In that sense, at least, I have not failed at being a writer.

The chapter immediately following the subject of fear of success focused on wanting too many things and being all over the map. That chapter could have been written just for me. Over the course of my life, I have expressed a desire to: be a doctor, be an architect, be a lawyer, be in politics, be a singer, be a writer. You get the picture.

What I’m not sure of yet is whether I am what Sher calls a “scanner,” someone who “delights in the astonishing, unending variety around us – but you don’t realize that being a scanner is a very respectable profession or a “born diver,” who wants to go deeper into a subject until I dedicate my life to it but “appear to be a scanner at this moment because something’s blocking you from diving” in which case I need to figure out what is stopping me from diving.

I have yet to finish reading the book, but Sher has me thinking about my lack of discipline and drive with regard to writing in a whole new light. I have taken the initial baby steps toward reversing that. Starting this blog was one of those. Consistency with regard to posting regular entries will help me develop a greater writing discipline, devoted as it is to my writing. Now, if I can only do something about my lack of organization.

Passages from I Could Be Anything I Wanted If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher, © 1994, Delacorte Press.

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