Make It Mean Something

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“Everything I’ve ever written is my attempt to transform what is ugly and painful or difficult into something that’s beautiful and transformative, like the phoenix rising from the ashes.”

-Cheryl Strayed

The most interesting moments for me sometimes come when I get to ask other artists for advice.

I’d tried and failed at something this year, something that felt different than anything I had tried before. It wasn’t music. No, something from which music springs. The thing that keeps all musicians writing sappy songs until the day we all explode.

As one of my musician-turned-producer friends says, “My friend’s heartbreaks pay my bills.” Masochism makes great art.

I’m not going to argue if that’s the snake eating it’s own tail there. Rather, I saw that quote by Cheryl Strayed tonight on twitter and felt redeemed.

When I found myself bummed and left in the dust after some pretense of reciprocation gone cold, I did the only thing I can ever do in situations like these: I wrote.

And in my daily writing, I found a theme.

After weeks, a piece started to present itself, and at some point, I knew it should be published and found the perfect venue for it.

I was, however, terrified to publish it, in fear that it might get read by anyone privy to the situation that inspired it. I sent it to my closest writer friends and asked how I could edit it to take down the identifying details to make it less obvious.

One of my girlfriends wrote back and cut directly to the chase. She told me the identifying details were what made the piece what it was. She also said:

“I think if you want to publish this one you’re gonna have to work more on the courage to put it all out there rather than the piece itself…”

That I have people in my life who can be direct like that, thank the gods. What she said struck me hard and I realized that this was an exorcism of sorts, like in the movie Twixt, when Val Kilmer’s character is working out something unresolved, still lingering and subconsciously torturing him.

I talked to another writer friend, one who is very frequently published, and she said something similar. She told me that I had gained something as well. Myself and this piece of writing.

I had to be pretty sure that this thing, whatever it was, was over, and then I decided that life is short, and I want to continue being fearless.

I took something that sucked because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to and turned it into art.

Why?

To make it mean something.

I’ll be damned if all that suffering is not for fuel.

And I’ll be damned if I’m going to die without putting my art out there. For all I know, I could die tomorrow.

I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit on a piece I feel for whatever reason needs to be out there, that might make one person feel less shitty. Hell, I’ve succeeded already. It made me feel better to write it and send it out into the ether.

So take your heartbreak.

Take your blood, your let-down expectations, your incredulous witnessing of how reality is not fair, nor balanced, and wring it from the rag you mop it up with into a tiny cup we can all drink from.

Somehow, this makes it all worth it. Every wrenched drop, distilled into something like a salve.

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