My latest youtube video ... contained a favorite quote of mine which expressly states that "the art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."
But that's not entirely true. Because once you're sitting down Ethel is just raring to sink her teeth into all of your ideas... they are either half-baked or derivative. Do you know what people will think when they see what you're doing? Your idea is a dead-end which you're never going to finish, and even if you did it would be offensively uninteresting. People are going to yawn or laugh at you. The Daily Show is on! You need a drink. You need a snack. You are a socially awkward pathetic excuse for a (fill-in-the-blank) and nobody likes you. Nobody.
You should read the whole essay yourself, because it's hilarious, but the main thrust of it is, everybody has these nagging doubts, and you shouldn't let yours stop you from doing whatever you want to do.
Reflecting on her reflections, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn't want to get rid of my personal Ethel. Does she get in the way sometimes? Yes. Does she slow down the creative process? Absolutely. But let's face it: all that angst is also the source of some of my best material. If I didn't have anything I needed to work out or work through, I probably wouldn't have started writing songs in the first place.
The best example of this occurred around seven years ago at an open mic. I had come to listen, not to play. Though I had nine songs to my name at this point and wanted to try performing them, I couldn't sing to save my life. Kind of frustrating. Anyway, a woman named Wendy Adams took the stage and immediately had my full attention. Her unique, powerful voice blew me away. I couldn't figure out why she was in this coffeehouse and not a ten thousand-seat arena.
If I got myself some voice lessons, I pondered wistfully, and if I practiced really really hard, all the time, could I ever learn to sing like that?
Well, said the dry and somewhat snarky voice within, you don't play concertos on a honky-tonk piano.
Hey, I thought, that's pretty good. Concertos on a honky-tonk piano. Hee. Yeah! I have to write this down!
"Honky-Tonk Piano" became song #10:
You never get down so low as when you reach for the sky
'cause it always seems you come up empty-handed
And every time you think you're gonna spread your wings and fly
Before you've even left the safety of the ground, you've already landed
Say your affirmations and you've got yourself a plan, oh
But you cannot play concertos on a honky-tonk piano
You take your inspiration where you can get it, and if self-doubt insists on dogging you, it might as well make itself useful.
P.S. Wendy eventually became my first vocal coach. I still don't sing as well as she does, but I do OK.