A masterful guitarist plays in a small theater in the foothills of the Berkshires on a cold, foggy winter night, a singer songwriter performs in a church in a small town in Maine, and a little known writer finds inspiration in their music, words, dedication to craft, and drive.
Some days it’s hard to come by, this desire to sit down and fill the blank page with words. I feel I am writing in obscurity. Who really cares? It’s not easy finding readers when you don’t have a big time New York publisher selling your books. Every sale is hard earned. Most of the time I have only myself to lean on.
Two weeks ago a reader sent an email to say she finished The Reverse Commute and really enjoyed it. I thanked her and mentioned the other books. She replied, “I do plan on reading your other books, just reading a HORRIBLE and LONG book club book right now.” I suggested she recommend Life Is All This at her next meeting and asked if she would write an Amazon review, they are so hard to come by. I hate begging but she kindly wrote the review and it’s sweet and honest.
Last week the innkeepers took a vacation. We went to Maine to visit Bob Whear, a fellow innkeeper and friend of Adam Ezra. We first met Bob and his wife Sherry when they visited our inn the night Adam played at Infinity Hall. Now Adam was visiting Bob’s inn and playing in Damariscotta at a church down the road.
On a dark street under a sky filled with stars, Orion led the way to the church that is now the home and art studio of George Mason. His large relief tapestries hang on the walls where people once worshiped. Tables were set for a community dinner of lasagna, salad, and brownie sundaes and Adam took the stage in front of one of George’s tapestries.
Adam is amazing and I have written about him before. Tonight he was playing solo, getting folked as he calls these house tours he has embarked on. Each song began with a story. An unheated basement he lived in rent free, Thanksgiving with his girlfriend’s family in Nebraska. The drive to make music for a living even though he was making little money doing it was stronger than material possessions and swank living quarters. He’s real and honest and his passion for writing and playing music touched everyone in the room that night, many of whom were seeing him for the very first time.
Last night we were back at Infinity Hall to enjoy the music of Johnny A playing some amazing guitar on his hollow bodied Gibson. This guy is so good at what he does the Gibson Custom Guitar company designed a guitar in his name and it is one of the company’s most successful signature models.
Rick Gembar, the senior VP of Gibson Guitars said this about Johnny A: “Creating an artist signature model guitar is not something we take lightly. But sometimes a player comes along who is not only a musical innovator and artist of the highest-caliber, but has innovative ideas about designing a totally new instrument. And that’s Johnny, who just knocked us off our feet.”
The theater was half full on a cold, dreary night in January but Johnny and his band knocked us off our feet, playing with the heart and soul of a band that could fill a football stadium, maybe even more so. I was reminded once again of the magical effect music has always had on me and the drive that keeps you going when you’re doing something you feel passionate about. Something you have to do.
At the end of the evening Johnny threw his guitar pick into the audience and I felt something hit my shoulder. The lights went up and I lifted my seat to see if indeed that pick had truly taken aim at me, and there it was on the floor at my feet. A shooting star, a lightening bolt, a cryptic message. Driven. It felt like an omen.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford once shared these words of encouragement with his students: “Writers are all doing the same thing. You are doing what Chekov did.”
Heady words indeed. But encouraging, oh so encouraging. It would be nice to make a bestseller list. To reach that many readers would be amazing. It would be even nicer to make a living writing books. I am writing this blog on a Sunday morning before our guests awake. I make my living nowadays as an innkeeper and we have a house full of people who were here to listen to the music of Johnny Cash last night at Infinity Hall. The smell of apple smoked bacon drifts up the stairs to our second floor bedroom. I have fifteen more minutes before I join Rich downstairs and help slice the fruit, serve the guests, keep the coffee coming, clear the tables, and clean the kitchen. Later we will make beds and clean bathrooms. I will conquer the mountain of laundry. I have a newsletter to write and send later this afternoon. We are offering winter promotions. It’s a slow time of year and we’re working on increasing business in the dead of winter.
This innkeeping gig suits me better than my years of accounting, a prosaic job that paid the bills and provided health insurance, some of the time. It never did feed my soul.
I remind myself of the email I received and the review my reader wrote: Very true to life especially for me in my life in comparison with the one female character with frustrations with work/income never enough and wanting to enjoy life now that the kids are grown. And then there was this review for Life Is All This: A book to sink into – I was reminded of Richard Ford’s writing as I read this: reflective, not rushed, pulling together life experiences in order to understand the current occupied space.
I am writing about the world as I see it, the human struggle in difficult times when the middle class is getting squeezed and the world we once knew seems to have been replaced with loud voices of anger and frustration. It is not us against them, we share more than we realize, and when I touch a nerve with someone who is also struggling it reminds me why I’m writing. I am seeking to understand my occupied space and hoping in the process it helps others. I am sharing hope and optimism.
At some point later today, when the beds are made, the dishwasher is empty, and the sheets and towels are folded, I will return to the fourth novel I am working on. I will open the blank page and fill it with words. This is a desire I cannot explain. I am driven to write.