This Is Our Life

I am not Diane Warren. She is famous in the songwriting community for two things: writing humongous hits and having fantastic discipline. As the legend goes, she writes first thing in the morning, from 6 a.m. until noon everyday. It apparently works for her, eighty Grammys later (or something like that.:-) I imagine her workspace, clear, somewhat organized, a spot in whiche one is able to find the line six pages and a two weeks ago that might actually work with the verse now.

Diane’s story is not isolated. Hemingway wrote every morning. Stevie Wonder writes a new song every day. Ray Charles did scales on the piano religiously each day. There is a pattern here that us looser creative types might take note of with some serious attention.

My habits are not as structured, as anyone close to me will attest. I mean to write everyday, but it doesn’t happen alot of the time. But writing still happens. Maybe it’s when there’s no other way for a particular idea or emotion to find its way out into the world. As Catie Curtis says, “good writing happens at the intersection of images from life and the stuff that you’re spending a lot of emotional energy on.” I think that’s brilliant. Giving your emotional obsessions a face, a picture to represent them, allows them to resonate in a more concrete way for others (and yourself, probably!). So since working with Catie at a songwriting camp in Colorado years ago, I’ve tried to remember to keep images present as I try to write about feelings.

But life is funny. And sometimes unstructured. And sometimes the rules go out the window and something interesting flies back in. I wrote “This Is Our Life” in one sitting, at the piano in the living room as I stared out at the snow and the evergreen trees, scrawling it down on the back of a lyric sheet to another song with a crappy (dying) pen. I cried, bawled, as I wrote it, thinking of all the images that make up our life and all the ways I love the people in it. I couldn’t get through the verses without choking up, even after I’d been working on it for a couple hours (that felt like twenty minutes).

I looked at it on the page and it was missing everything — there were no images, no examples, none of the usual ways I try to make sure a song makes sense. But I couldn’t change it. There was a purity in the way this song made it to the page that I just didn’t want to get in the way of.

I hope you like it. I hope it means something to you the way it does to me, and I hope that all the things you see around you and the people that matter to you give you the same kind of personal montage during this song in the same way it does for me.

And now… a couple questions:

How do we balance the different sides of observing and experiencing our lives? Are they mutually exclusive?

Do the things around us truly represent our lives? Our possessions? Our friends? Our families?

How fine is the line between laughing and crying? What other emotions run parallel with each other?

How does your family grow and bend?

What are you making that you hope to leave behind?

What other elements besides those mentioned in the song make up your life? Is there more than friends/family/work/love/learning/coping/thankfulness, etc?

And speaking of Thankfulness — I am thankful today for:
1. All the people who helped create and design the record
2. Craig’s great ideas and determination to make them happen
3. People’s faith in one another
4. Full, fascinating, productive days
5. The fun tv interview last night and radio interview I’m looking forward to tonight

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