Illumination of self through Dave Matthews Band’s song “Dancing Nancies”
Are you born destined to live out your life on a set path, or do you create your life? Dave sings in “Dancing Nancies,”
“Could I have been a parking lot attendant? Could I have been a millionaire in Bel Air? Could I have been lost somewhere in Paris?…Could I have been anyone but me?”
I suppose this is an existential question that others have been pondering from the reign of our consciousness and our ability to choose. It comes to me often, the question, when I am weighing my success as a writer to the years, energy, time, and money I have spent on my craft, on the art of my writing.
As writers, we are taught that we must use story and details to get our messages across. We have heard, “Show don’t tell.” Through detail, images, and dialogue we get a better understanding of our characters.
I am attempting to elucidate as if I were one of my characters: was I born to be a writer or did I craft myself into the life of writing?
In doing so, maybe you, fine reader, maybe you will come to some understanding of yourself. Show don’t tell. As a young girl, I wanted to be just like Olivia Newton John. If it had been possible, I would simply have moved my spirit right into her body, into her career of being a singer. Her voice and music, her smile and deep meaningful eyes became my desire. I’d play her records in my bedroom and sing for hours. Pretending, I was someone different, pretending I was her.
As I became a young teen that desire to be Olivia simply changed to I want to be a country singer.
I sang in bands with Noel Haggard, Merle Haggard’s son. I moved to Orange County out of high school to launch my singing career. Moving back home a year later, I became a music major and attended the local community college. Two years later, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee to finish my music degree at Belmont University, and to be discovered. Being discovered never happened, and this sent me on a long road of self-discovery.
Replaced music for books.
I learned to read books in Nashville.
When I say learned to read, of course I knew the mechanics of reading, but it was in Nashville that I sat with story and immersed myself in language. And like with Olivia, I quickly fell in love with Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, and Edith Wharton.
Stories became my music.
Even before I left Nashville to move back to California, I decided I was going to be a novelist. I read book after book, and I started writing.
For the past 25 years, I have been writing and studying the craft of writing. Was I born to write? Was this imprinted on my DNA, in my cells as I grew in my mother’s womb? If so, how would I explain all those years spent in smoky stale liquor-smelling bar rooms or my move to Nashville?
I heard at the Maui Writers Conference from one of the guest speakers if you can be anything else, be that because being a writer is not easy: be a nurse, or a teacher, or a lawyer, or a receptionist, or an electrician.
With those life choices, the roads are more clearly laid out, and there is a paycheck. People don’t call your life work your hobby.
Also, with writing, you are faced with rejection almost on a daily basis. If my rejections from agents and publishers were energy, it would be able to launch a rocket up to mars. Not to use a hyperbole example, surely my tears could fill up my daughter’s soccer water bottle from all my near misses, just not right for us, wish you the best of luck, it’s a subjective industry.
Are we supposed to have forks on our path?
My desire to be a country western star doesn’t negate for me my being a writer. The music road led me to the one I am now on.
I am not a talented musician. My son is incredibly talented so maybe my years as a music major, which lead to my buying a piano that he plays on a daily bases is reason enough for me to have sought that life.
Whether I am singing or writing, there are moments I feel connected to something larger. I feel whole and what I am doing is meaningful. First music, and now literature is what makes me feel connected to myself, to others, and to the creator.
I do believe sometimes when I am writing that I feel that the words, the characters, the details come from somewhere else. The Greeks used to call this “the muses visiting you.”
Though I believe that novels, stories, and poetry is art. Writing is also a craft that can be learned. Because of my love of the art, the experience of creating, I have spent years learning the craft of writing. I went to Humboldt State University to earn an English degree, and I have attended numerous writing conferences and retreats. I have spent thousands of dollars on editors. I write almost daily, even when I don’t feel like it.
It is my birthday and like Dave in “Dancing Nancies,” “I’m looking for some enlightenment.”
I was born a creator. I have a strong need to make stories and beauty. I am blessed that often when I am writing I feel I am doing exactly what I am meant to do.
Success in the external will come, or maybe it will not, even with all the manifestation that I do, I am not promised success. As the song tempo slows and there is a moment in time when there are no instruments, Dave almost whispers: “Falling out of the world of lies.”
This I seek to do, fall out of what is not true for me.
Sometimes my daughter walks into my room and sees me dancing.
”Mom, what are you doing?”
She is thirteen. “I just finished writing.”
“I love you, Mom. Are you listening to Dave?”
“Sing and dance [and write,] lalala hey lalala, he, lalala.”