Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Made a Writing Target

My biggest challenge in writing is brevity. Back when everyone was groaning about having to do a 3, 5, or 10 page paper I was asking how much was too much. Although no one has recently told me to give them "15 pages on the meaning of the sublime in aesthetics and art history," I still fight wordiness. Last night a friend sang me the praises of brevity and Twitter. So I made a target. I'm aiming at it over my computer. It reads:


Monday, December 27, 2010

Practice and Hard Work

Practice. It often means doing the same thing over and over. It at least means regularly repeating things. Repetition. Form. Details. Progress.

Hard work. It usually means it isn't easy. Could mean pushing harder or going longer, or stopping when it's hard to. Hard work comes in many forms.

It's still the holidays for some of you -- perfect time to practice and get a little hard work in on an area you don't usually have time for. Like your inner life (things to mourn or let go of), a neglected instrument or relationship, or just sitting without doing anything for ten minutes. Or maybe doing something Jesus said, like visiting someone who is sick, in prison, lonely, in need. Or taking God seriously enough to do the thing you've known for years you need to do.

If you do I guarantee it will not only take grace and encouragement (translate wisdom and allies human and divine) but practice and hard work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The next recording

I'm reticent to give details on the upcoming recording because it seems too good to be true and there are still some gaps in the plan. That being said, so far doors keep slamming open. It's unexpected, uncanny, humbling and fun.

I plan to tour with Kelly (who I've been working on the EP with in the last few weeks) and at least one other person, maybe a small band -- in the spring.

I look forward to putting together a tour that deals with both a concrete social issue (like human trafficking) and more abstract or spiritual issues (like the transformation of a person in the wilderness by the love of God).

So, the next five months are going to be an adventure. I picture Christa and I collapsing into sabbatical (it's an arid, beautiful country with one stream) in the early summer after doing battle with a hideous evil on both personal and systemic fronts. Well, to clarify, I see us doing small acts of courage and love as part of a massive campaign of redemption and reconciliation (which we see just glimpses of) -- not single-handedly ousting things that need ousted!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thematic Songwriting and human trafficking

First of all, to write a set of songs around a subject is a big challenge. It's too easy to be cliche', insensitive, melodramatic, or just plain dumb. A few people do it well . . . sporadically. I've toyed with it on Wind, Rain and Thunder and Seconds to Sunrise, but the themes were pretty loose.

In this current project, add to that innate challenge the nature of the subject matter we're dealing with (human trafficking). Just learning about the subject is draining and horrifying. No wonder most people (me included) don't know much about it. It's crazy what humans are doing to each other right now as I write. I'd rather not know.

I was surprised, though, how much great work is being done to help people in unspeakably horrible situations (check out for one example).

So this is what I've been working at this last week and a half and fitting other responsibilities around.

My approach to the project was to pray for help and wisdom, jump in writing and hope it works. We'll find out for sure when the album comes out and we play the songs live, but if how rewarding the process has been is any hint at the quality of the work, this should be a good record.

It's a gift to be able to face a challenge like this and take little steps -- one word, note or line at a time forward -- and find yourself somewhere you didn't know if you could go just weeks before.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I posted a couple weeks ago about being impressed with the co-writing I saw in Nashville. I was hoping to work at that discipline, and man, have I had the opportunity recently.

I'm just finishing up almost a week of intensive songwriting with Kelly Clemons in Deep Ellum, TX. I'm helping her do an EP of songs related to human trafficking. Because of this theme, our time has been split between me learning about the subject and us writing songs.

We've written five songs in six days, and I think they're pretty good. Kelly's melodic sense and vocal style pushed me in some new directions. She's also good at nailing the right word, looking for consistency in a lyric, and anchoring her songs in a strong image.

While all of this writing and educating has been going on, Christa has been painting and designing in the other room, and Kelly's photographer husband Justin has been escaping to his office to get a break from the noise.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I didn't want to even think about what I'd do until we get to sabbatical (besides the commitments I already had). But my team told me to ask the inner question (not just be driven by necessity but see what's in my heart). I did and found I wanted to record an album (before June or July when we start sabbatical). I wanted to record with a full band, good quality but figured there was no way we could afford the time or money to do it. In prayer I felt challenged to talk to a specific person. I did and they offered to help me, reducing the cost so significantly that I could begin to consider it.

While there's a long road ahead yet and challenges to face, problems to solve, looks like I may be recording a full blown record in Feb or March and touring some before we go to sabbatical.

It even going this far feels like a miracle.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Perfectionism and procrastination

My community supported music group is supposed to be a place that I experiment with songs and REGULARLY send out a group of 3-5 of them to people who pay me an annual membership to be part of it. Recently the word regular has not applied to my CSM. Until I finally sent out the seventh delivery a couple days ago I was months and months and months late.


Perfectionism and procrastination. Together these two tendencies derail a host of worthwhile (and probably a lot of worthless) endeavors.

It was good to finally return to the vision (which in part is that this is "in process, raw recordings of new songs" and give myself permission to do what I was committed to do but hadn't done.

Come on people, be responsible. (Someone aught to name an album that I think).