On Writing and Music
ImadeinTruth (IiT): I’m going to come out of the closet and say this: I’ve been writing songs since I was nine years old. As a kid, I felt like I was living in an emotional war zone. I wasn’t allowed to share my feelings because it was considered a sign of weakness. The only way I could get them out was through writing songs. It helped me cope with a lot of hurts. I also had a lack of male role models as a child. Music provided positive individuals that I could look up to. They taught me about boys, social injustice, and of course Jesus. Music pointed me to the cross at a time when so few people were teaching me about life.
- Old man in the club syndrome: When old people (read over 30) try to follow the latest trends to stay “current”. There should be a law that if you own a mini-van, you can’t use auto-tune.
- Copy and paste Jesus: When people who just got saved yesterday censor their lyrics by saying Jesus or any other cliché religious phrase in place of a sinful reference. Please, have an actual message constructed on a biblical principle, and not the latest song Lil Wayne put out last week.
- “Worship” turrets syndrome: This is mostly in gospel music. Saying “worship” every 3 words doesn’t make it a worship song. Every lyric and every note should extend out of a heart bestowing the utmost value on God. That’s where worship begins.
I’m a horrible person and probably ran over a baby squirrel because I don’t make this spooky deep prayer before I write (and I often forget to pray..oops!). I just pray that God guides what I write so I say everything in a spirit of love. I pray that my article finds the good ground of people who will be blessed by my writing because I know that my work isn’t meant for everyone.
So after that, I just start writing. I listen to the artist I’m writing about on constant loop and try to channel their emotion. I try to have a catchy and bold opening line that is in the tone of a friend you’ve known for years. Like Anne Lamott (a witty Christian writer who is my hero) says, my first draft is pretty crappy. I delete as much as possible in the second draft because the biggest sign of lazy writing is too much length (my weakness). Then I read it several times over and over again like someone who never knew the artist before. I ask myself, will they be able to understand what I’m saying? I usually try to provide a clearer context and add more descriptive statements. Then I set my article free and trust in the grace of God that He’ll take care of any overlooked mistakes.
I have two things going for me when it comes to music discoveries: ignorance and ambition. My mom didn’t let me listen to secular music growing up so I didn’t “know” who Michael Jackson was until I was 19. I know, I feel like I was raised in a closet too. I often say that I know nothing about music; I’m just good at writing about it. This ignorance gives me humility and ambition. I want to know as much as I can about music because I was deprived of it for so long. I always keep a notepad with me and jot down notes when my friends tell me about “real music”. I’m a control freak and barely listen to online radio stations. I Google and research artists that I see on playlists, twitter timelines, and blogs like Soulbounce, Rapzilla, and GroovSpot. Then I investigate until I can craft a story about the artist.
IiT: I only took writing seriously since this spring. God spoke to me in two very jarring dreams that I should leave my stable (yet, very time- consuming) advertising job and pursue music journalism full- time. This was over the course of a year. In February , I felt that the spirit of God was moving on ahead of me and preparing a place for me in the future, just like the Israelites when they followed the Ark of the Covenant. Then in May, a prophet called me up in front of my campus ministry service (I volunteered at the time) and was said that an internship opportunity was going to open. With all of these “signs and wonders”, I knew obeying God was a lot safer than staying at a job that God was calling me to leave. Since the beginning of August, I’ve been a full-time music journalist. I applied to a journalism school in D.C. and I’m pursuing freelance and internship opportunities. That is my faith talk for “Jesus, I need a job!” But so far, I haven’t missed a meal yet. Praise God.