23 February 2010

I'll Go

Two weeks ago was was my first make of my new year. (It seems that I'm not starting off the year with great timeliness in posting.) With that in mind, I felt a little pressure to be grandiose in what I chose to make. I wanted it to set the tone for a new year in which I would do bigger and better things that the year before. I also thought I should probably make something Valentine's Day oriented. I got a little stage fright knowing that (due to Jason's embarrassing promotional email--which he sent without my permission and much to my nausea-inducing chagrin) there are new people tuned into what I'm doing here. It's a pressure I hadn't experienced before in relation to this little happy place. I didn't feel up to it. I felt deflated, exhausted, embarrassed, and stressed out. To make matters even slightly more complicated, Jason and I were house-sitting. And that meant that whatever I was going to make, I would have to plan ahead and bring all of my materials and equipment with me. So that put sewing and cooking out of the question. I didn't want to bore you with yet another crochet motif, and I'm still working on the granny square blanket, which just might take me the rest of my life to finish. I didn't want to color or paint. And I wasn't inspired to felt or embroider anything. So where does that leave us?

Looking back over the past year, I was shocked to see that not a single song was included in my weekly makes. How could this be? Am I not a self-proclaimed songwriter? I wrote a poem. I wrote an essay. But not a single song. Enter identity crisis and crippling despair.

If you read my post on Hope, you know that I feel like music needs to be a part of whatever direction my life is taking. I didn't elaborate there, so I'll do so here. I hardly ever listen to music. Ever. I always have a song playing in my head, so I rarely feel the need to fill the quiet with music unless I am singing along to my own internal soundtrack. I think this is part of the reason I've always written songs, even when I was little. I would walk around outside, and I would sing about what I saw, whatever popped into my head. I did it for the joy of singing and expressing myself and praising my Creator. I did it to give release to my need for the dramatic, which I have always held inside of me. I did it out of a desire to make something up that wasn't there before. I formed the habit before music was quite so mobile. If I was going to have music with me all the time, I would have to make it myself. And I did. I've done it for as long as I can remember.

But over this past year of disciplined and regular creativity, I have not been writing songs. The reasons for these are long and boring and over-trudged. But one that I haven't really talked about is that I have always written from the whim of the moment. And for all those trudged-over reasons, I have not really been open to whims of the songwriting variety.

But open or not, music is a part of me. And it's something I would like to be reconciled to. So I've been listening to more music. I know that music has a great power for mood shifting, so I've been listening to my old Christian CDs. The good ones from back in the junior high/high school days when I used to buy Christian music: Caedmon's Call (self-titled), Skillet (Hey You, I Love Your Soul), Ginny Owens (Without Condition), Sonicflood (self-titled), etc. It's been really helpful to start my day on the way to work with songs about the goodness of God, the reality of my condition, the hope I have in Christ.

I decided that if I were going to start writing again, I would need to reject the snobbery of the hierarchy of subtlety over blatant Christian messaging in my music that I adopted back in the fall of 2005. And with the beginning of this new year of weekly makes, wanting to incorporate music, feeling impossibilities in every other medium, and knowing it was about time, I wrote a Jesus song.

I debated just telling you about it and not sharing it with you. Because I wanted my first week to be something grand and wonderful, and this is...well...not. I knew that my first serious attempt at songwriting in years would not hold the former brilliance I once possessed. I know this is not a good song. The rhymes are lazy. The lyrics don't take you anywhere from the beginning to the end. The structure is sloppy. The chords are boring. And the melody is cliche and stupid. For all accounts and purposes, I really don't like this song.

But. To hide it from you would be to deny the purpose of this blog, which is to include you in my creative journey. And to be an honest account, I must include my failures as well as my victories, the things I am proud of and the things I would rather not grace with my signature. I wish I could give you a song that expressed my current state with some greater magnitude and skill. But my songwriting muscles have atrophied, and I have a feeling that it will be a long journey back to where I used to be. In the mean time, there will be quite a few craptastic songs. And this is one of them:

I'll Go

My steps have been my own.
I've wandered far.
My feet have taken me
Deeper, deeper into the dark.

I am lost, and I can't see.
It's time that You take the lead

I'll go
Where you want me to go.
I'll follow if You'll lead.
Say that You'll lead me.
I'll stay
Where You tell me to stay.
As long as You keep on loving me,
I'll do it Your way.
I'll do it Your way.

I'm holding all my failures
With open hands.
I'm done with my excuses.
I'm out of plans.

I am tired, and I'm confused.
It's time to follow You.


You are life, and You are light.
You are faithfulness and truth.
You are mercy. You are might.
I will ever trust in You.


(Blogger doesn't have a way to upload sound clips, so you'll just have to imagine what it sounds like. Maybe that way you'll imagine it's better than it actually is.)

I think part of the problem is that even while I was writing this song, I knew it was a lie. I feel that even more blatantly now that I'm looking at it in retrospect and sharing it with "the world" as an expression of what's going on in my heart. The reality is that I am weary. And I have tried to direct my own steps, all the while thinking that I was being faithful to God's direction. I find myself without clear purpose or calling or identity, and I know now that part of the reason for that is that I have been fighting for everything that I want and motivated by the fear that I will never get any of it. I know now that God is for me, that He's been trying to show me that this life of fears and fighting will only wear me down. He wants to free me from the bondage I've created around my heart, the walls of protection I've made for myself that feel increasingly like a prison. I see all that now, and I am moving towards a place of trust, a place where I will be able to say, "I'll follow if You'll lead." But I'm not quite to the place where I can say, "I'll go where You want me to go. I'll stay where You want me to stay."

Perhaps the most honest line of this song is, "Say that You'll lead me." But if I am completely honest, that desire is speckled with, "Say where You'll lead me." And then I'll decide. Unfortunately, that is not generally the way that God works. He requires total surrender, total devotion, total trust, and then He shows You what's next. When God reveals His plans, it's generally not in the context of "Check yes or no." Once He's shown You, that's the path. I'm not going to get into the theological arguments behind this...all the sovereignty and predestination and free will nonsense. I only mean to say that until my heart is fully surrendered to God, the fact is that I don't really want to know what He wants. Because I'm scared that I won't want it, and where will that leave me? Alone. Further isolation and despair. Because once I have turned my back on God's plans, I am entirely abandoned to my own. And mine--when they are even existent--are pretty lousy. But in this lovely little agonizing state of limbo, I can pretend to want what God wants, all the while grasping the illusion of control.

So all that, in addition to the technical shortcomings of this song, is why this song isn't good. It's not honest. And honesty is my highest goal and virtue in the realm of songwriting. It is my barometer. And maybe that, more than anything else, is why I haven't been able to write songs in a long time. It has been years since I have had the eyes to see the honest state of my heart. It's a scary place at the moment. Too much regret, too many doubts, too many fears, too much uncertainty--the bad sort of uncertainty that steals away opportunities and blinds you to the possibility for a happy outcome. But if I'm going to be an artist of any kind, I can't be content to sew a couple seams and call it done. I need to go to the dark and scary places that stretch me beyond my current skill and past my safe boundaries. I need to start asking myself, "Is this honest?" And no, this song is not.

Unfortunately, I've never been a good editor of my own songs. I'm too emotionally connected to them to swing an axe where it needs to be swung. In my past life as a songwriter, I leaned heavily on initial inspiration for the quality of my work. I don't think this song has too much potential, so I didn't agonize over it too much. But if you have any ideas about how it can be better, I welcome your feedback. Unless your feedback is, "Robin, I love this song. It's the best song ever. You're so brilliant. Blah blah blah." Because this is not the caliber that I expect from myself, and it would not be helpful for me to have it reinforced, thus lowering my standards. So constructive criticism, come one, come all. Gushing is strictly forbidden.


  1. Robin,
    You are a weird little bird! I wish that you could stop beating yourself up for one little minute so that you could see that this (whatever this is in your life right now) is all part of the journey, no matter how painful or ridiculous, or pointless it seems right now. Creative people get writers block, and carpal tunnel syndrome, and mind-numbing pregnancy induced coma-like exhaustion, and arthritis... it's part of life, and you just have to take it in stride, and work around it. And I'm not saying that I handle the journey well all the time. God knows I've had my share of tears and fist shaking at the sky, but if you can't work through it on your own, you should seek some godly counsel. I grow weary of the self-abuse you seem to hold tighter to your bosom (yes, I said bosom) than the honestly amazing, beautiful, talented, CREATIVE woman you are. Give yourself a break!

  2. Robin, I so wish we could hear it. Your songs always have melodies that stick in your head and I'm sure this one is no different. I'm glad you're sharing this medium with us. Crocheting and cooking isn't quite as soul-searching. So although it's a bit more painful for you to write songs, I appreciate your honesty and enjoy knowing the creative process. You so need to read "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard. She has such a poetic and honest and beautiful way of depicting the process of writing. I know you own the book...I hope you can pick it up one day.

    And I'm so glad you're finally losing your snobbery of Christian music. You have such a gift in this genre and I hope you continue to pursue it. Love you!

    and btw...give your husband a break. He loves you and wants to support you and is so proud of you. So your cheeks are a little red? Be thankful you have someone in your life that thinks what you are doing is worth sharing with others. Just sayin.... ;o)

  3. Oh my darling sisters. I love you guys so much!

    Amy, I promise that I wasn't beating myself up over this song. I'm actually quite proud of myself that I sat down and wrote a bad song. For me, to sit down and write when I wasn't "inspired," to trudge through 2 verses, a chorus, and a bridge, when I knew that the song would not be fantastic...I'm more proud of that than if I had breezed through a really great song. So even though the song itself was a failure, the process was a victory. I should have talked more about that. I guess I overdid it talking about how bad this song is, but I'm not upset about it. I'm not despairing of ever writing a good song ever again. I'm just working through the process. Thank you for loving me and looking out for me. You should take it easy on yourself, too. After all, you are being creative. You're making a baby!!

    Megan, I'll sing it for you sometime, although you might not want this one stuck in your head. :o) It was good to get back into the existential making of songwriting. There will be more to come, and yes, more Jesus songs. The Writing Life is on my list of books I need to read. I think I even stole your copy of it. I will get on that sooner than later. :o) And Jason...oh Jason. I know he was just trying to help. I'm mostly over it now. It just took my safe little space and exposed it to people outside of my normal bubble and kinda defeated the purposes of my giveaway, which were to see who was reading my blog and to give me a way to celebrate my anniversary. Oh well. Like I said, mostly over it. :o)

  4. thanks or being honest. my songwriting muscle, is pretty well gone at the moment, so i know how you feel. But if you're going to do anything with this, keep the first stanza. i think it's honest.

  5. Thanks, Marc. That's really helpful!! I'm sad you haven't been writing. I really like your songs from CMC.