It’s good to be the writer

I bet you'll be grinning like me if you watch the video.

I bet you’ll be grinning like me if you watch the video.

Sometimes being a writer can make you crazy. I mean, it’s bad enough that we hear voices in our heads, but when we start arguing with those voices, we know we’re in trouble.

Last week I had the delightful pleasure of seeing Livingston Taylor perform at Rockport’s beautiful Shalin Liu Performance Center. Though a longtime fan of Liv’s brother, James Taylor, I knew little about Liv or his music and wasn’t sure what to expect. The show unfolded on an intimate stage with the Atlantic ocean (viewed through, as one of Liv’s guest performers put it, “the cleanest windows I’ve ever seen”) as a backdrop. Despite the dramatic setting, the stunning view was forgotten once the performers began weaving their tales with music and humor.

Joining Taylor onstage were two of his students from the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he teaches a two-part course called Stage Performance . Matt Cusson is an immensely talented pianist/songwriter/singer who opened the show and later joined Taylor for additional numbers. And then there was the lovely Megan Hilty who, among other numbers, performed a beautifully impromptu version of “Over the Rainbow” with Taylor. The sweet authenticity of the performance in all its imperfect perfection brought tears to my eyes.

If you’re wondering what all this has to do with writing, I’m getting there.

Throughout the performance, Taylor shared personal anecdotes about how he wrote various songs. From how he “borrowed” melodies or chord transitions from other composers to how one song started out as one idea and became something entirely different to how another song began as an apology for a botched Valentine’s Day, Taylor gave his audience an peek at his creative process. Though our mediums – music and literature – might be different, I found many of his stories rang as true for my kind of art as for his.

But more on that in another post.

One of my favorite performances of the evening was a folksong called “Railroad Bill.” I laughed all the way through and kept thinking, “Yes. Yes! That totally happens!” If you’ve ever had a character sass you, you’ll love this. So here, without further ado, the “traditional” folksong, “Railroad Bill:”

Wasn’t that great?!?

Like I said, it’s good to be the writer.

Liv Taylor and me. Awwwww.... :)

Liv Taylor and me. Awwwww…. šŸ™‚

After the show, I picked up a copy of Taylor’s book, Stage Performance (more on that in a future post). I also lingered (along with my beau, daughter, and parents) with the handful of fans who stayed to get autographs and photos. After some cajoling, I managed to overcome my shyness and ask for a photo. Taylor took this “double selfie” with my daughter’s iPod (her camera is way better than the one on my aged iPhone). I felt like a goof, but – as you can see – I was also grinning like an idiot. Clearly, I was having a good time.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

28 thoughts on “It’s good to be the writer

    • We did have a wonderful time, and Livingston is both very interesting and very talented … not to mention a lot of FUN! šŸ™‚

  1. This was such a great post! Totally informative (didn’t know anything about any of these musicians so thanks for sharing) with some super cool links. Loved especially how you connected it all back to the art of writing – and yes, I have soooo many voices in my head some days I think I’m going crazy! I agree with you totally: it’s good to be the writer (and even better when your selfie comes out ok)! Keep writing and thanks for sharing šŸ™‚

    • HA! Glad you liked the two-for-one selfie. I rarely take them, but just had to go with it when he offered. šŸ˜‰

      Tks for coming by. Enjoy those voices!

  2. It’s true that the it’s really great being the writer, even though we sometimes hear voices in our heads. I haven’t heard any voices of late though. Does that mean I need to work harder at being a writer? jk šŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing your post with us. Didn’t know anything bout Livingston Taylor so yup, I’ve learnt something new today. Thanks for sharing the video as well.

  3. I’ve had an annoying time when a character refused to tell me her past. Since she was a big burly mercenary woman I decided to threaten her with being a princess. She basically shrugged and said “sure but now you need to design an entire planet (futuristic setting) which allows a princess to be a mercenary.” I felt like I could strangle her then, but the setting she forced me to write was wonderful.

    Other then that I don’t tend to plan my stories much, just follow the characters, so I don’t get into many arguments with them.They’d win like railroad bill did.

    • Love your story! šŸ™‚
      Sometimes, we’re best served by listening without expectation. I imagine some of the best characters and stories evolve out of random, imagined conversations that we never expected. That’s pretty cool.

      • But sometimes we have to argue back. This is something I learnt with the character I mentioned (Tallula). Tallula was happy not having a past, being a minor character. Whenever I poked her for a past because I wanted one she sort of shrugged, I wasn’t getting a positive or a negative feeling from any of the pasts I imagined for her. So, trying to chase a negative feeling that might give me a clue at least I wrote a story identifying her as a princess. And I did feel a response then, but not the negative one, more like laughter “You want that one, well go with it then.”

        If I hadn’t argued with her she would have never become a major character, she was too content to be a minor past-less character. Sometimes we need to listen, but sometimes I wonder what joys I would come across if I argued with my characters. Then again, they might be more violent arguments if it isn’t Tallula, she’s pretty laid back.

  4. Ah! I’m so glad I’m the only person who argues with their characters! I think writing is a form of multiple personality disorder . . . people always look at me strangely when I tell them the character decided what happened next. People always blame the author when, really, we don’t have much control at all, do we?

    • Every story is a collaboration between the writer and her characters. šŸ™‚ Makes it more fun, doesn’t it?

    • I love how there is so much crossover between different artistic mediums. I’m writing a feature about a local “open studio” that includes musicians, dancers, photographers, painters, potters, bookmakers, and more. If I’d had something prepared, I would have added “writer” to the mix with a reading! šŸ™‚

  5. Great post. I’m a writer too, plagued and pleased with the voices that are in my head. I find it exhilarating when a character becomes so real that it actually argues with me…although it can be awkward when you’re trying to have a conversation with a person who lives outside of your head and the one’s in your head have a retort you wouldn’t dare repeat. There is a bit of the insane when you embrace being a writer, but I agree with you–it’s great to be one!

  6. Yikes! I can see your point about creating awkward moments by accidentally channelling one of your less-than-tactful characters in a Real World conversation. On the other hand, it could be kind of fun … šŸ˜‰

  7. Pingback: Weekend Edition – The Secret Truth About Writing | Live to Write – Write to Live

  8. I LOVED that!!!!! Thank you so much for telling me about it, and sharing your experience, and the video, I laughed out loud so many times. Thankfully none of my characters and I have ever had that sort of difficulty, but that song will always be fresh in mind when I mutter to them.

    • šŸ™‚ So glad you enjoyed it, Carolyn. Sometimes, it’s best to just surrender to the insanity of it all. Makes the experience more fun … even when your characters are arguing with you.


  9. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – The Power of Story in the “Real” World | Live to Write – Write to Live

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