It was in the late 90s. Maybe it was 1996. I had been going to a songwriters' group in Hollywood every Monday night to see if I could get a grip on publishing and promoting my music… and of course, to learn a little more about the craft of songwriting.
Remarkably, any artistic home runs I'd hit prior to those meetings had become nothing more than wisps of memories. My current brood of songs, sadly, were systematically thumb-squashed by my panel of peers as well as by the moderator, an expert with his own string of successes. I was a nobody struggling and failing to become a somebody. I was a wandering minstrel in search of validation, but validation eluded me.
The thrust of our critique meetings was to decode and to second-guess the current song market. Our measure of skill was to write tunes that could be plugged in to whatever was for sale on the radio that month. I however, being a know-thyself kind of guy, knew for a fact that my greatest weakness was in trying to be trendy, in second-guessing the market. I'd never been able to spot a trend, whether it was an new band or a penny stock or a crazy dance step. I was a witless trend chaser, ill-fitted for the task. My strength, for what it's worth, and I knew it, was to do what "I" do. Unfortunately, what I do isn't necessarily what people want. Oh well.
I struggled with what was then the current rage: country music. Country had had many Renaissances. I was living in the 90s version, so I breech-birthed a handful of homely musical babies for the panel to point and laugh at. It was tough. I did have a couple of viable songs, though, from a previous onslaught into the song market. It seemed that it would be a good idea to push those tunes instead. So I asked for advice from the moderater, a heck of a nice guy. He told me that he was giving a class at a local university that would last ten weeks. In that ten weeks, he'd have ten special guest speakers who were essentially, famous songwriters. I signed up.
After week ten, having learned quite a lot, I never wanted to write again. Who know why. Maybe it was the industrialization of a process of something that I considered to be organic, like making your own pie crust or growing your own tomatoes instead of buying them. I don't know. All I know is that I didn't write another song for years after.
With my songwriting on hiatus, the creative void needed filling. I began writing. You know, "writing" writing - No notes or chords, just words. Stories, articles, reflections; whatever I could think of to write about.
That went on for a while until I needed a little motiviation to pull myself out of one of my slumps. I looked for articles by famous writers, which were plentiful, to help push me along. They all said that writing is really hard and that I needed to get up early in the morning before everyone else. Then I found a book by Stephen King, and another by Dorothea Brand on the topic of writing. And guess what happened? I stopped writing. I'd lost my "Jones." Something about knowing too much, I suppose. Lucky for me though, it's been months since I've written anything and it's been months since I put those books down. Wisps of memories. But I'm starting to feel the urge to reach deep into my suitcase full of thoughts and pull out whatever my hand can grab. To have some fun. To be simple again.