Glenn Frey Spoke To Me in a Dream Last Night…

Ok, ok, he didn’t only speak to me; he spoke to everyone. And…ok, it wasn’t a dream, it was a netflix documentary (The History of the Eagles).  But it felt like a dream. That’s gotta count for something, right? And it was truly profound, as if his words were meant just for for me, and this blog.  Why? He was being interviewed about the process of writing, and how he–Glenn friggin Frey–learned to do it.

Now, I’ll just go ahead and say this up front: I’m a huge Eagles fan. And in my opinion, Glenn Frey and Don Henley are among the absolute masters. Right up there with guys like Johnny Cash. And so, when I get a chance to hear from a true master of their craft, I’m all ears. Especially when he starts like this:

I didn’t really know how to write songs. I knew I wanted to write songs, but I didn’t know [how] exactly, did you just wait around for inspiration, you know, what was the deal?

Ok, now I’m hooked. I feel exactly the same way…about blog-ging! (See! I told you this was going to be good!). Glenn friggin Frey baby. Yes! So Glen, how do you really, really, truly, write a song? What great secret will you reveal about writing?

Ready? Listen to the master speak. Here’s what it takes:

Elbow grease. Time. Thought. Persistence.

Elbow grease? Time?! Whoa…mind-explosion!

But then, that lingering little issue of quality remains. What if, after all of my elbow grease, after all of my time, my writing is still…bad? Fear not young grasshopper, Jedi Frey speaks to this issue as well, passing on the same wisdom that he himself had once received (from Bob Seger, no less):

Frey: What if [my songs, are] bad?

Seger: Well, they are going to be bad. But, you just keep writing and keep writing and eventually, you’ll write a good song.”

Boom! Mind-explosion.

But seriously, that is so good, at so many levels. For one thing, what perfect advice from Seger! I find it so amazing that these were the very words that encouraged Frey to start writing. What if he hadn’t started? What if he had been prevented by the concern that his writing might be…bad?  That is so crazy (I can hardly put the words ‘Frey’ and ‘bad’ in the same sentence)!

But then at another level, there is something here that is of a deep, personal encouragement to me. Now, hear me out. I am not for a second thinking that I might be the next great writer. The fact that Frey turned out to be Frey is pretty awesome, but it is not what encourages me. Rather, I’m helped by the sage wisdom that he took on board. I love the advice that Seger gave because it uses the negative force of Frey’s concern against itself. A mental jujitsu move, if you will. A move that defeated the opponent. It allowed Frey to press on, in spite of his deep concern. I feel like it does the same thing for me, with immediate effect. What if my writing is bad? Oh, haha, yes…you don’t know the half of it. It will definitely be bad, real bad. But, here’s the solution. Keep writing the bad stuff (!)…until you eventually write one thing that is…good.

So beautiful. So sober. Thank you Bob. Thank you Glen. I’m taking this to heart. So, here’s the roundup then. My ten thousand hours begin now. The goal: a year of blogging, no matter what, no matter how bad.

What’s the Value in a Word?

So, you don’t want another blog out there, huh? Well, neither do I. So, don’t read my blog and I won’t read yours. And we’ll all be happy, mkay?

Anyway, back to me. Me, and why I should write, despite some of the mental hurdles I’ve had to combat along the way. Beyond the issue of escaping a false dilemma, there’s something more positive to consider as well. Namely, the intrinsic difference in value between that of reading and that of writing.

You see, even if you never read this, the reality is that I still wrote it. And that’s something. It has very real intrinsic value, even if it’s not the same kind of value as that of reading something by someone else (who really knows how to write).

I remember going through the same process of thought as a teenager before eventually deciding to learn to play the guitar. Why would I strum my clumsy chords when there was already seriously good music out there? Why would I waste my time playing, when I could be listening?! Well, I suppose there was always the thought that I just might be the next Jimi Hendrix! Hmmm, maybe. This definitely appealed to my strong delusions of grandeur–for a season.  But delusions are easily shattered. If I’m not mistaken, my Hendrix-delusion lasted a total of 2 days. No. If there was any hope of long-term effort, I would need something more. Back to my friend, clear-thinking.

Here’s a fairly abstract sentence for you: I eventually came to realize that I was collapsing into one, what is actually two. That is, I eventually came to understand that learning and listening are not the same thing. They are different things, with different values. Listening to Knopfler let his soul ooze through the Stratocaster is truly among the most profound things I have experienced in this life; but it is nevertheless completely different from me learning to play the guitar. While my own strumming of those basic guitar-chords was perhaps not as, ahem, aesthetically profound as that of the Hendrix-experience, it did nevertheless serve to develop me in ways that listening to Knopfler or Hendrix, never could.

So, back to writing then. As convinced as I am regarding the importance of reading, I need to remember the value of writing (or, learning to write) as a ‘different thing’. This helps me to press on, because even if my writing never amounts to anything, it is of massive value in terms my own self-improvement. This is especially the case as it relates to my vocation as a pastor. Concerning the development of a pastor’s mind, I once heard it said that, “reading maketh the full man, speaking maketh the quick man, and writing maketh the exact man”. I have found this to be so very true. And in many ways, I already live by this mantra. Every week I write my sermon in full, even though I know that I will disregard the manuscript when preaching. I write it out because of the unique value that it brings to my preparation process. I know this value experientially. I know the clarity (and ‘exactness’) that this process brings to my thinking.  And while this is not the only value in writing, it is in my mind one very tangible example of it.

Bringing all of this together then, it makes sense that I add a time of focused ‘writing’ to my weekly routine of ‘reading’ and ‘speaking’. And when I hear the call of those mighty authors on my bookshelf, beckoning me to stop my silly blogging and instead point my reader to a truly worthwhile experience, I need to remind myself of these things. There is value in reading. There is value in writing. They are different values. Both are truly valuable. And…at the end of the day, it’s not all about you, dear reader.