By LISA MARIE BAUTISTA, student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program
This post was written as an assignment for professor Cindy Shearer’s CIA 7091: MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop. As part of a community of artists working across art perspectives, students in this course get the chance to teach each other about their art form(s), practice, lineage and influences, and are challenged to inquire into the interdisciplinary arts as well as forms new to them.
First of all, I want you to know, I have only written one complete song in my life. (I consider a song to incorporate both the melody and the chord structure, and possibly the notes or lyrics.) I attempted several times before to finish this song and I stopped composing at a certain point. I was interrupted, let’s just say. I became distracted by something else that lured my attention, or by my discouragement.
Two weeks ago, I settled on the lyrics. I started writing the chord structure first, many years ago when my parents first gave me my one—and favorite—guitar. Throughout this time I wrote several, at least five or six, versions of the lyrics. In fact there were many other times in my life when I thought, “This is it. I’ve written a song!” Then shortly after that, I would realize I was too scared to say what I had written, and slowly I would forget every word. I have spent 10 years writing this song.
The melody is the hardest part for me. This surprises me because of the specialty that I bring to writing music: I am a singer. I sing melodies constantly, which should explain why I can’t stop coming up with melodies for this song. Every time I sing it, I sing the melody differently. Luckily, I am slowly settling on a general idea of one or two melodies for each line of lyrics.
The most intense part of writing is the doubting. Some days I will walk away from the studio feeling hopeful, with the least amount of fears. Then other moments, I will run from the studio because I can’t accept the challenge. Every session, I warm up my voice, practice the song I am working on for my voice lessons, and then focus on my own desires. At first glance, this plan of action sounds exciting. I feel blessed and honored to have the gift of creation. Yet, an intimate experience of my agenda, then gives me a clearer understanding of creation—I see the possibilities of truths. My song becomes the voices of my ancestors and I feel great pressure to articulate their message. My longing to uncover the deep essence of these voices serves me, and I am usually willing to go towards the dark sides of my perception. But what I find startles me.
I become surrounded by many emotions and spirits. I am asked to allow chaotic, wounded, and fearful energies to flow through my body. Instead of being a witness to the feelings, I immediately claim these thoughts as my own and I become nervous that my attention on music has been wasted. I feel unnecessary and scared for my desire to live. I long to return to my comfortable place before transformation, my “Cocoon”, as Chogyam Trungpa would say. I start thinking of much easier careers that I should consider, and then I quickly gather my things and leave.
Thankfully, I have learned to enjoy and embrace discomfort, so I am able to return to the studio the next day. I see the value in determination, especially for creating a dream. Writing music and performing might be the biggest dream I have, aside from becoming enlightened, and now I’m convinced creating is the path to enlightenment. Don’t worry…I know that creating is a life-long practice, as is any form of meditation. But now as I add to my list of “ways to meditate," I can honestly say I am also a songwriter.