Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Writers are Fortunate

For our June class, my Advanced Memoir Workshop at StoryStudio Chicago read Rosanne Cash's memoir Composed. It's not the kind of memoir I would have chosen to read myself, but that's what you have a book club cum workshop for, right? It expands your horizon. We had decided to give a celebrity memoir a try and this was the one the class decided on. Overall, I have to say it was a good choice because the book was an enjoyable read, even for me who knows nothing about country music and who has no appreciation for who Johnny Cash was.

At times there was a lot of name dropping, most of which passed me by because, as I said, I don't know who these people are (Some of that is due to not having grown up in the U.S., but some of that is also due to my living off the pop culture grid and not watching TV.). Nevertheless, I enjoyed Cash's narrative, and I was particularly intrigued by the book's funky handling of time. It starts off chronologically with her California childhood, but then jumps forward to her own grown daughters, then moves back again. Often, when people are mentioned who apparently became famous later, their career path is laid out right then and there, jerking the reader around in time.

What I mainly appreciated about Composed though, were Cash's insights into the creative life and the process of becoming a musician (in her case, despite her heritage, it seems to have been by happenstance). For instance, she hates the price that comes with wanting to be a musician, or even a songwriter, as she mostly seems to see herself: You have to perform, and if you become remotely successful, you become a public figure, whether you like that or not. And that's one point where I think writers are lucky: Even if we become famous, the vast majority of the public is not going to recognize us walking down the street. Even famous writers like J.K. Rowling can probably sit in a café undisturbed. We also don't have to tour to peddle our wares, beyond a book tour, of course, should we be so lucky.

But the main reason I realized writers are the more fortunate artists is that we do not need others to create our art. As I learned from Rosanne Cash, to become a musician, it doesn't just take a girl with a guitar, it takes a sound mixer, technicians, cutters, producers and a whole other plethora of souls to collaborate with you to make it happen. Sure, writers do need someone to publish their work, eventually anyway, but to actually create it, to write a story, a poem or an essay? For that we just need ourselves, on our butt, at our computer or with pen and paper. That's all we need. And we should be thankful for that simplicity.

12 comments:

  1. Yes we can do it all ourselves but it is more than writing the story. It takes beta readers, editor, formator, book cover creator, marketer, publicist and of course all the social media. I personally can't wait until I can hire some help.

    Oh and I love Johnny Cash although I don't think I have listened to his daughter Rosanne much. I think I will check out her book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Morgan - you're totally right in that our writing gets much improved working with editors etc. but we don't need anybody to write that story. To even get a song together, you need others. So that's where we writers are lucky, I think.

      Delete
  2. Ich finde den Austausch mit anderen auch sehr inspirierend. Mir kommen dann oft gute Ideen. Egal ob beim Schreiben oder Malen. Allein am Schreibtisch vor sich hin zu brueten ... da schwimme ich leider auch mal in meiner eigenen Suppe und komme nicht vorwaerts. Natuerlich - man ist auch unabhaengig. Mir tut also beides gut.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbara - Austausch ist immer super, finde ich. Aber um etwas zu produzieren, brauchen wir Schreiber niemand anderen, was eben bei Musikern anders ist.

      Delete
  3. Very interesting take on the difference between song writers and lit writers Annette. I think there is some truth in what was said. I have a friend that has written a song and inquired of my help to write the lyrics. Not all songwriters write their own lyrics it seems. And may I just say that writing lyrics is a horse of a different color as you try to get into the songwriter's mind and bring out the feeling of what they want to convey through their music. I'm still working on that. Glad you liked Rosanna Cash's memoir. I'm sure she had one crazy childhood. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen - yep, see, with someone composing and another person writing the lyrics (Oscar & Hammerstein are a great example!), it does get complicated, although obviously great music is born from such collaborations.

      Delete
  4. There seems to be more of a central focus for a writer, I think. We get assistance where needed, but we're largely directing our own fates.

    I've heard some of her music before, but I didn't know she'd wrote a book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. William - she has actually written a few books!

      Delete
  5. Having missed the class discussion on this, I was glad to get your perspective here. I also felt I learned an incredible amount about the technical aspects of recording music. And, like you, I didn't recognize most of the names she mentioned, though I did grow up in the U.S. and was fairly immersed in pop culture. Just not so much country/folk music.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steph - thanks for commenting! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who didn't know all the names.

      Delete
  6. I still haven't gotten around to reading her book although I saw her in concert at the beginning of the summer. You might take an interest in how Nashville songwriters work. Songs are frequently written by committee according to a schedule. In other words, they rarely write in isolation or by inspiration. They make appointments to meet, they toss around random chords or phrases, and in 15 minutes or 15 days that can actually produce a 3-minute piece of literature that will endure through the ages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie - thanks for sharing that insight into Nashville songwriters' way of working. Could work for writers, too, don't you think?

      Delete