By Eileen Kalinowski | Posted June 1, 2005 | Updated November 14, 2019
When someone starts off a sentence with, "You should write " it doesn't matter what comes next.
My heart stops, turns cold, and then often gets angry. I feel as if I've been stepped on, diminished somehow criticized for not doing what I'm supposed to be doing as a writer, as an artist, failing the creative spirit inside me.
I wish I could react with equanimity. I wish I could listen, smile, and think, "they're trying to connect with the artist in me. They want to be part of this energy. They think their good ideas will inspire me somehow."
But that is not what goes on in my mind. I used to agree with them, walk away from those conversation telling myself, "They're right. No one likes to listen to songs that you write about your struggles, your sadness, your disappointments. Don't drag people down. Why can't you just lighten up and write happy songs that make people feel good inside?"
The truth is, I do have a few of those songs in my basket. I wrote a love song a few years ago when I was falling in love with the man I'm still with and it's a pure, overflowing outpouring of that wonderful feeling. It's not a superficial song, it still goes down deep, but I was there, at the piano, and that's what came up from my heart and soul.
This is what I finally understand about myself. I don't really decide what I'm going to write about. I start writing, and the writer in me tells me. It's not really that I write a song, as in I'm going to write a recipe, or write a composition on making a great grilled cheese sandwich. It's more like I sit there at the piano, plunk a few chords, listen to what I've been humming to myself as I walk or swim or drive, and then I write the song down. I feel more like a stenographer than a creator.
When someone suggests that I should be writing happier songs these days because I'm a happier person and my life has really started to come together, I need to give them a break. They have no clue how this works, even less of a clue than I have.
But I don't have to pay much attention to what they're saying. I think I understand what Woody Allen went through after doing Hannah and Her Sisters, when people still wanted him to write the slapstick comedies he started way back in his early filmmaking career. You should be taller. You should have blonde hair. You should paint with more reds and browns. Yeah, right. And you, my dear critic, should write your own songs.
©2005 Eileen Kalinowski. All rights reserved.
Eileen Kalinowski sings, produces music, freelance writes, and is a member of the Taos Coalition to End Homelessness. ...
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