I'm slowly writing my best record yet in a very unusual way: unconsciously.
For as long as I can remember I have abhorred waking up early. My constitution on this subject is quite traditional and unpopular among my fellow body parts and I really need them all to be on board for this procedure to properly work. I have, in the past, made resolutions to voluntarily get myself out of my oh-so-comfortable queen size bed before 9 a.m. Usually it works for a couple of days; just long enough to get a few extra things done and feel good about myself. Then, on the third or fourth day, upon prying my eyes open with a mental crowbar I would incredulously identify the alarm clock as mine, assess my recent advances in personal productivity, and fold faster than Superman on laundry day.
But I haven't had to set my alarm clock for a while now and I've been getting up earlier than ever. My brain has been responding to a call to arms; a desperate request for new musical ideas to go along with my new found lust for creative writing.
It all started happening last week. I had stayed up until around 3 am typing a story for something called a "blog." I slept for about 4 hours and then semi-consciously began the frantic and unrelenting pillow folding procedure that I employ to figuratively give the middle finger to the conscious world's reveille. It didn't work. It didn't work because I had been dreaming I was recording a song in a big beautiful studio. It was a song I had written and was listening to a playback of in the control room. The walls were littered with the many gold records I had been awarded over the years, presented to me by various musical icons including, but not limited to, Tony Orlando (sans Dawn. Although when I was a kid, I thought they were three people), Bruce Springsteen, Gloia Estefan, and Charo (yeah, I'm kind of a weirdo, but a gold record's a gold record).
I opened my eyes and slowly came to the usual conclusion that I was indeed in my bed. But unlike most days, I had been given a present in my sleep. I had been given a new melody. A melody which I could not place as familiar. A melody which I very much liked. A melody which I immediately whistled into the tape recorder I keep plugged in and at the ready near my bed.
It has happened 4 days in a row now and I think I really like a lot of it. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a megalomaniac and I believe my every excretion is worthy of preservation. I'll have you know that I'm presently working on reassessing that unfortunate condition by making public my every waking thought in something called a "blog." I'll give you the URL someday...oh, wait...never mind.
They're not full songs yet; not even close. But they are indeed examples of a method of creating that I have always been jealous of. I have read countless stories of artists who write in their sleep and then create some of the world's best music. It always seemed like that would require the ability to roll around in bed knowing that one's only obligation that day was to play their instrument; both mental and physical. And now, unbelievably, I have that life.
I have believed for quite some time now that worrying solves nothing; that working yourself up into a lather over situations which you have no control over is tantamount to mental suicide. Prepare for the future, of course, but deal with immediate problems as they come to you, not from afar. They usually are much smaller than they appear anyway. Usually.
But the key here is action, because there truly is no time to waste.
The world lost an amazing musician three days ago. Jeff Healy was a unique performer. Blind from retinal cancer since age 8, he went on to turn the world upside down with his slide guitar playing. The man had a niche. Admittedly, in 1988, there wasn't much competition for the title of "best white blind slide guitarist" but Healy wasn't just a gimmick. Healy was a force to be reckoned with. He seemed to be everywhere in the late 80's from the Billboard top 100, to the house band in the movie "Roadhouse" and everywhere in between. I didn't get the itch to play slide guitar until recently, but I always did revere Jeff's playing.
He passed away on Sunday at the age of 41 only weeks prior to the release of his first album in 8 years. According to news reports there is not word yet on whether the record will be posthumously issued.
I realize we live in a world in which heartbreaking tragedies occur on a daily basis. I realize that we as a people have become increasingly numbed to such events. And I realize that one must prioritize their daily tasks to allow for a productive life to flourish and survive. But we must not lose sight of why we are put on this earth.
We are put here to create.
Whether this means to bring a new life into this world, or to construct a menu to delight an otherwise pedestrian appetite, or to drive a bus connecting commuters to their respective destinations, or even to foster new ideas by teaching a student using passion, conviction, and honesty, we are creating something with our kinetic energy that wasn't there moments before.
We are producing something which oftentimes we aren't even aware of.
We do this when we kiss a new love for the very first time and wonder if they are the one. We do this when we realize, in the thick of a lunch rush, that our specials menu makes us feel good about ourselves because we can, by taking a chance with an odd pairing of flavors, delight a bank of taste buds in a stranger long dormant from mindless repetition. We do this as we facilitate the unpredictable process of serendipity in an overfull public transport vehicle providing the necessary contact with a person we may very well have avoided, realizing that we have more in common with them than a one dollar fare. And we do this when we disregard the real and present danger that exists within the halls and classrooms of our worlds and fearlessly challenge a growing mind to expand beyond the glossy pages of a Houghton Mifflin textbook.
And sometimes, we do this in our dreams.
I just did it again and I think I like it. I think I'll take the rest of the day (after the gym and some housecleaning) to foster this simple melody that came to me around 5:30 this morning and try to create a song; something that someone might eventually hear in a completed form someday.
Something that may be heard in the heat of passion, in the heat of a kitchen, in the heat of an overcrowded bus, or on their way to a classroom overflowing with willing participants. Which of course, we all ultimately are. And we hold in our book bags a daily homework assignment; the simplest of tasks due in the most immediate future.
To create something from nothing.
Because there simply is no time to waste.
R.I.P. Jeff Healy 3/26/66-3/2/08
Thanks for reading.