March 10, 2012
An Excerpt From "The Song Emerging"
One of the things I liked about Nashville was that it was a family town. Most of my songwriter and musician friends raised kids and enjoyed mixing work with domesticity, friendship and community life. Although the business strained some of the marriages and there were some that failed, I knew many happy families in the songwriting community, especially in the early days.
My wife and I raised our twins in Nashville. It was a challenge partly because my son was born with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mild autism and we had no extended family around to help us. He’s a gift to us, and his triumphs are many. But during the years when we were very busy parents with a special needs child, I was sometimes envious of other songwriters who had healthy kids and grandparents in Tennessee to help them. The adults went on weekend trips without their kids, and life seemed somewhat idyllic for them in my imagination.
Our lives were completely different. Just going out for an evening required hiring a registered nurse who was familiar with how to treat the dangerous status seizures my son was prone to having on a regular basis. We spent many nights in emergency rooms and many hours during the day seeking solutions for various obstacles to his independence, fighting with medical insurance companies and just making sure he got the care and education he needed.
Our circumstances also required me to become more involved as a father. I often had to change my work habits and free myself from music industry obligations. My wife is a born caregiver with very generous motherly instincts. She loved raising a special needs child. But my career often vied with family for my attention and it wasn’t always easy for me to separate the two because they were so interdependent.
Ultimately I realized that I would, if the situation required it, sacrifice my career for the sake of my family. I began to turn down opportunities to travel with artists to co-write because I knew it would be difficult for my wife and kids. I sometimes cancelled important co-writing sessions because I’d been up all night due to an emergency. I even turned down a potential shot at a solo record deal with a major label.
By putting family first I found an unexpected happiness. My marriage grew deeper; our children are exceptionally close to both of their parents; and wonder of wonders, my songs improved. I believe the best songs are the product of compassion, and there is no greater teacher than the love of family.
If we have close family, if we are dedicated husbands or wives, fathers or mothers, sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, then we are the most successful people. If we can write about these experiences honestly, it may be a deeper vein of ore. We aren’t necessarily denied the rewards of the creative life because of family. Family can enrich it.
The world is dismissive. Creativity isn’t valued in most places, certainly not in schools or the corporate work environment. It is even feared in some circumstances. We tell ourselves we can’t afford the luxury of creative time. Yet, today I’m surrounded by friends and family who help me guard my creative space, and in turn they have enjoyed the experiences my music has brought into their lives. I am a conduit for many who want to share some of the creative experience. They have each benefited in some small way from my “selfish” creative side, so it clearly isn’t as selfish as it appears to be. It all depends on my passion, what I bring to it, and what results from it in the lives of others.
We can take nothing for granted, but if our dealings are on the level of honesty and consideration, and if the time we with spend with people is shared completely, we will have no problem maintaining close relationships. We are protecting a source of contentment that we can bring to others as a byproduct of our creative life. If we sacrifice that contentment, ignore the creative calling, then we lose the ability to share the contentment, too. If we understand this, we’ll see there is some importance in making time for creativity while keeping the bonds with family and friends strong.