Writing 101, Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You
You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart — an annual fair, festival, or conference — will be cancelled forever (or taken over by an evil organization). Write about it. For your twist, read your piece aloud, multiple times. Hone that voice of yours!
Years ago, when my daughter was about nine, I stumbled upon a little pub. It was Sunday evening and I was taking her back to my ex after her weekend visit with me. I had noticed it on the way there so on my way back I thought I would step in and have a beer or two. I had for years loved craft brews so I thought maybe… just maybe they would have something good.
Turns out this little place has about 150 different beers, about a dozen or so on tap. Just my luck huh. Annnnd… It also happened to be the open mic. Beer and live acoustic music. Double luck!
I don’t really remember specifics about that night but I do remember I had planned to only stay for a couple of beers… maybe an hour or so. I stayed past midnight listening to those really terrible, amateur open mic-ers but despite the fact that they may have been terrible, I thought they were amazing and courageous and cool and most importantly… having fun making music.
You see 17 years earlier I had been a music major but a lack of discipline, a loss of my scholarship and a general apathetic attitude found me leaving the department and music altogether. There were a number of reasons but mostly it just didn’t feel right anymore. It was work… hard work. I didn’t like trying so hard at music. It wasn’t fun anymore.
But this! This ‘open mic’ thing. This looked fun. It felt right. This I could do.
If I knew how to play an instrument, could actually sing worth a damn, wasn’t terrified outta my gourd to get up on that little stage in front of all two dozen of the people who weren’t really paying attention.
After several months, I bought myself a crappy acoustic guitar with the intent of some day getting on that stage. I went to that little place every other Sunday after dropping off my daughter. I would get a beer, sit at a front table and desperately try to remember the shapes of the musician’s fingers as they moved on the fretboard. Then I’d go home and try to replicate what I saw.
I know what you’re thinking… ” why the hell didn’t you just look up a few YouTube videos and learn that way?”
Ten years ago YouTube was NOT what it is today.
So instead of learning guitar what I learned was I sucked!!
It was frustrating and my fingers hurt. I would put my guitar away and not pick it up for weeks or months. I would try again for two or three Sundays and give up again. Try, then give up. Try, then give up.
This went on for about or year or more until one night out of anger and frustration and perhaps being half drunk I began strumming the strings really hard and one broke.
The next day I went to a local guitar shop and was looking for the lightest gauge strings I could find. Lucky for me the tech who happened to be working asked why I was looking for such light strings and instead suggested I get the action lowered on my fretboard.
The difference was incredible. It was so easy to press on the strings that practicing my finger shapes was actually fun.
I started going to the pub more often, learning more and more. I became friends with the owners and many of the regulars. He’ll I’d become a regular myself. I became a sort of “pub photographer” taking pictures of special events as well as of the musicians who wanted pics for their websites.
After a couple of years of going to the pub, I finally worked up the nerve to get on stage and do my first open mic. I learned three songs and on my birthday in 2005 I played to a very forgiving, very encouraging crowd.
I was playing music again and even though I was terrible, it felt great.
A couple of years later I asked some friends if they’d like to form a band. I wrote the lyrics for songs and two and half years after forming we released our first CD.
And where did we do the release party? 😀
At the little pub I had discovered about six years earlier.
I love that place. I love that small, smokey, smelly, blue collar, unrefined folk music playing place that has the open mic (as the host says) “every Sunday night of your life.”
I’m not sure it will be around very Sunday night of my life though. The owners of the place are getting on up in age. They might be in their late 50s to early 60s. They’ve grumbled about the economy hurting the pub. They have had a health scare or two in the past few years. They don’t have kids and I don’t know if they’ve made plans for when they pass.
So the idea that this place which has had such an unbelievably, significant impact on my life, may very well not exist in a decade or two, hurts. I almost can’t even imagine it.
want to imagine it.
The sad thing is I haven’t been in about a year and a half, maybe two. It’s crazy huh.
There are several reasons why but to simplify it, life has just gotten in the way.
I haven’t been in so long but it’s still nice to know it’s still there.
I need to go back. I need to go at least one last time and revel in the thrill of making music for a half drunk, forgiving, encouraging, wonderful crowd of friends before it really is gone.
I’ll let you know how it goes.