Staring at empty pages

Empty Pages by Traffic from the LP John Barleycorn Must Die

Me playing the Dobro…well, sitting with it.

I spent a good deal of time today at work.  Yes, that’s right, work.  I am in television and days off have to be asked for, not simply assumed.  Those days are for people who don’t chase the ratings machine.  I wasn’t complaining, I had to work and I had work to do.  I will complain that it was out in the heat and the sun but what’s better?  Heat or sitting at a computer in a cubicle?  I’m going with the heat.  I can drink more water.

But then at the end of the day I got home and picked up a guitar.  Not that this is any new thing for most of you to hear, it’s not like playing guitar is a new or complicated thing for me, I get that.  I play every night, but that’s been about it.  Playing.  I dink around, noodle on a Zeppelin riff or dance around a Clapton lick or what have you.  I’ve avoided writing – complete and intense, concentrate and try writing.

But having someone who was committed and wanting to do that very thing . . . who likes to write and to play and walked around with the lyric and melody in her head and sang it in pauses in conversation . . . I haven’t done that in a long time.  It was high time that I did.

So after getting home I made breakfast for dinner because, like all week, the cupboards were bare.  Being the 4th of July, the stores were closed.  Not that I minded, breakfast burritos are pretty good if you have hash browns, eggs, and sausage in them.

But I’d had a melody – three or four chords – that I’d started with and never sat down and pushed myself to finish them.  I didn’t want to stare at the empty pages, centering around the same old thought.  (Thank you Steve Winwood)  So instead I grabbed my Dobro, sat . . . and sat . . . and played . . . and played some more.  And then the chords came to me.  I resisted the urge to meander over to blues songs or to start playing Stormy Monday.  Instead I looked at what would flow and was interesting, not common.

Now…the pages are still empty, though.

My lyrics.  God help me, lyrics evade me.  I have the melody line.  I have the confounded bridge.  I just don’t have the lyrics.  It’s rare – for me anyway – that the lyrics come with the music.  There are a few occasions, some of my better writing, where that did happen.  Or the melody and lyrics came first and I wrote the music around them.  However, I can’t say that’s the case for anything I’m currently trying to write.

You’d think this would frustrate and anger me.  It doesn’t.  It’s inspired me.

It’s funny how being with and playing – however briefly – with someone else, particularly when they’re better trained and better players – you push your own boundaries and try to improve.  Had Julia Sinclair not stayed at my house; had my dear friend from Albuquerque not convinced me to let her; I would never have played from the moment I put my dishes in the dishwasher until about 1am.  I switched to “Dot”, my beloved Clapton Stratocaster and put pillows over it and around it to muffle the volume for my neighbors and found solos.  I rediscovered my fuzz face that my brother built with germanium resisters so it would sound exactly like Hendrix’s.

Julia Sinclair

I have a song.  Just need lyrics.

Sometimes it’s good to stare at the empty pages.

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