WordPress.com Now Supports Embed of Getty Images; I Blow Up Your Eyeballs

I love putting pictures in my posts. Because pictures are pretty. And sometimes you can find a picture of a red panda cracking up at your jokes.

So imagine my delight when the WordPress.com News blog made this little announcement:

Earlier today, Getty Images announced a new embed feature that will allow people to access and share photos from its extensive library of images for non-commercial purposes. We have been working with Getty Images over the past few weeks and are excited to bring this feature to WordPress.com!

I was like this:

And this:

There are so many images at my fingertips! The whole attribution thing is SOOO much easier! Plus, you never know when you’ll need a picture of a robot, getting ready to have a great time with a beach ball.

Not all of the images are available to embed in this super fancy way (getting a little greedy if we want that, no?), so every now and again you’ll have to deal with the disappointment of not being able to embed a picture of a cat raising it’s arms like it’s saying Hallelujah in a Pentecostal church…but pfft, you’ll get over it. Because there’s kitty with a tiny hat on:

And a kitty whose super power is being cute:

And, if you’re feeling a little crazy, this kitty:

There’s also a lot of non-kitty images (but seriously, there are so many kitties).

In fact, the other day Getty Images announced the Lean In collection, “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them.” I commented on Facebook that I wanted to start a business, just so I could use all those badass images of women being awesome and showing normal signs of aging, and girls doing stuff other than wearing dresses. Like so:

Now I don’t need to start a hair-combing karate machinery business. I can just use the images in a meandering blog post. Total win.

So be on the look out for more awesome images here. I promise to slightly scale down my use of cat images (a little). If you’re a blogger you should definitely go check out the full Getty Images catalog. That’s a whole lot of fun right there. A whole lot of it.

Happy Friday, friendsies.

Good Morning, Snuggles

I have about eight—drat, no, seven—minutes to pound this out. Seven minutes to cobble some words together and jam them onto this screen here, and hope they make some kind of sense. Tick tock. No pressure.

It’s been a while. Things in my life are basically freaking bananas all the time. I had another kid last year, (hence the pregnancy post) and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t just suck all time and energy right out of your life. I mean, sucking like a vacuum in a cartoon where all the forest animals and leaves and pine needles and newspapers and old people get sucked into it. Like that.

When this new lil’ babe was born, beneath the torrential avalanche of need, I extended myself a little rope, tied to the boat of sanity. That rope was this: you can’t do much more than this, Melanie. You just can’t. You’ve got two people that need you all the freaking time, the idea of “me time” is laughable, and parenting is about as easy as threading a needle with an invisible worm. So to make it I had to let go of my dream to-do list, and pare it down to something simpler. It turned out about like this:

• Get out of bed

• Survive 10 hours until Stephen comes home

• Do not slap strangers as a result of exhaustion and anxiety

• Hug the girls really and truly at least once a day

• Don’t stress-eat all the food in San Diego

It’s a pretty limited list, but I know it’s within my capabilities, though just barely.

(Crap, I’m out of time, you all.)

So, good morning, Snuggles. I’m still here and alive and I still want to write and I want to hug your blessed little faces with my thought pukes. Even if it’s only seven minutes at a time.

The Loser’s Guide to Screenwriting

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Become Impregnated by The Idea

The Idea comes to you like a mythical creature. It creeps through your window at 2 AM. It rushes straight into your bosom, carried by a warm, southeasterly wind. When it comes to you, it’s fully formed, for it has been made by the hands of tiny green gods from another realm; they know more about storytelling than we ever will.

Yes, they’ve crafted The Idea, the green gods have, and now they’ve sent it to you. It’s so good it’s sexy. And you’re sexy too, now that you have The Idea. You cuddle it, coddle it, coo at it in your mind. You’d kiss it straight on the mouth if you could. Heck, you’d kiss yourself on the mouth.

Obsession. Development.

You write a few things down—not too many, just the broad strokes, really—afraid that delving straight into details will scare The Idea away. And it really is a fantastic idea. So good you can’t believe no one has come up with it before. How is it that a story like this has never been told? Not in this way. Not with this twist. You can’t believe your luck. You speak of The Idea to no one as you flesh it out in your mind, and even in your mind you speak in hushed tones.

The Idea is to be revered. Respected. Protected. You caress its head like it’s the prettiest kitty of all time.

Share Just a Little

Aflame with the exhilaration of having an actual writing project in the coffer, you find yourself unable to resist sharing a little with your writer friends—juuuuust a little.

But lo, when you open your mouth some kind of sentence fragment sputters out, and falls directly in your coffee. You have made a mockery of The Idea. You must stop speaking immediately.

Immediately.

Backtrack Paired with—What’s That? Oh, Yes—Panic

Back in your apartment, you pull out your notes, searching for The Idea. It must be here somewhere; intact, gorgeous, purring.

You read through one page. Then the next. And the third. The last? Wait…wasn’t there more than this? What about the opening images that gave you chills? Or the B story that brought just the right blend of levity and intrigue? This is not The Idea! This is something else, something lesser, something—God help you—pedestrian.

Excavate. Hyperventilate. Repeat.

Okay, just calm down. The golden Idea crafted by the tiny green gods could not have disappeared this quickly. (Unless you angered the tiny green gods. What did you do!?) You just need to think a moment. Just think. THINK.

So you need more than a moment. That’s okay. What’s that 99% perspiration thing? That’s fine. You can do that. Stop worrying. Go to the shelf. Pull out a few screenwriting books as reference, and you’ll have the bones all nice and laid out before you in no time. Sexy bones. The bones of The Idea. It will be fine.

Reinvent All Wheels

Whatever crap they’re selling in screenwriting books isn’t going to help you now. What were you thinking? What, were you hoping to write formulaic drivel that will make a bunch of money for some studio fat cats out there but will leave you dry and listless in your soul? Starved to the core of your creative being? (Wait, what was that about money? Creative famine might be fine with money…)

No! No formulas will work for you. No “structure” or “journey” or “beat sheet” will do The Idea justice. Instead, you must cull the collective knowledge and craft your own system. A system, a structure, a theory worthy of The Idea. The Idea needs a warm, fresh, bohemian yet ruthlessly genius home in which to appear once again. Yes. Yessssss. This will work. Just give it time. Tease out the structure with your hybrid, game-changing ideas and all will be well. The Idea will be well. And you will kiss it on the mouth.

Beer

And a little whiskey.

Vomit

In the alley. Defeated, you deposit both your stomach contents and your hopes for The Idea neatly between a dumpster and a family of rats. Even the rats pity you. A baby rat averts her eyes. You don’t disagree with her choice.

Interlude

Hello, Old Friend

Months later, you find a folder on your computer holding a vaguely named file. You open it out of curiosity. “Now that was a good Idea,” you think. “Just a little work and…”

Another ride around the carousel, please.

Hello One Thousand Subscribers! What the Deuce are You Doing Here?

2010_05_14-you-are-here

Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr

Yesterday I reached a pinnacle—a difficult and craggy height the likes of which could only be dreamt of when I first pressed “Publish” on WordPress.

Yes, it is true: I now have one thousand WordPress subscribers. (That’s you! Hooray!)

The first few hundred accumulated quietly. Like dust in a corner, or receipts in a wallet, or kittens in a house where the mama cat never gets fixed and is very friendly. It was calm, and nice, and only a little hairy. Then some big, partly exciting, partly terrifying jumps came with the two times I got on Freshly Pressed (Thanks FP editors!). And then?

Then, things got a little weird.

I started getting a bunch of subscribers every day. Like five. Or ten. And some of them, well…I kinda wonder what they’re doing here. (Not you, of course. You’re here on purpose, right?) Like all the people whose blogs are in a different language. My humor’s a little bumpy in English; I can only imagine what kind of a loon I sound like in translation. And then there are the fashion blogs (did you not see this, people? You will find no fashion here.). And, I dunno…just a bunch of randos. Perhaps I have charmed all one thousand of you with my wit and made-up words. It’s possible. Or perhaps there’s some sort of internet scam in which you charm me with your subscription, and then I end up being a drug mule for you or something. (Please know I’d make a terrible drug mule—breaking rules makes me very, very nervous. I use my signal every single time. Even when no cars are around. That type o’ gal is not cut out for the drug muling life.)

So, to quell my curiosity, while also seizing the opportunity to press a new button I found in my WordPress post editor, I thought I’d do a poll! It’ll be enlightening and entertaining for all involved. Plus…more buttons!

Here we go:

 

A million snuggles to all of you for making me feel like I’m not sending my words into the abyss. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Deal? Deal.

Treasures of the Internet

Treasure Chest

Photo By Timitrius @ flickr

Did you know that the Daily Post at WordPress.com has daily writing prompts? True story. I read them all, hoping they will ring a thousand bells in my head and then I’ll write a thousand brilliant blog posts, be offered a blushingly generous advance for my soon-to-be best seller, then get a private jet to take me to Switzerland where I’ll paraglide down to a quaint grassy spot in the Alps. Mostly I read the prompts, make some kind of groaning sound, and decide I don’t have the gumption to respond. Maybe next one? Or the next?

But today’s prompt was much easier, because I’m not asked to rattle something fascinating out of my brain, but rather point you to things that other people have rattled out of their brains. I can point like I champ. I’m pointing right now. At a chair. If someone walked into my apartment and asked, “Which chair did you accidentally push over and not bother to pick up?” I’d say, “That one,” and the asker would follow my expertly pointed finger to the office chair and not be confused in the slightest. Pro.

Ahem.

Anyway, here are a few gems from my jam-packed RSS feed, for your reading pleasure.

Bailey | Never Had One Lesson | Jerrod Crouch

Okay, this is suuuper sad. Sorry to hit you with that right off the bat, but some stuff on the internet is sad and you should probably get used to it. But this piece that Jerrod wrote about the loss of his wife’s dog is just beautiful and honest and it’s worth a read. Just be ready to cry a bunch.

I knelt down and kissed Bailey on the forehead and whispered in her ear, “Thank you for the best spot on the couch and I will love Court for the rest of my life”.  I know Bailey didn’t hear it, but I also know that she already knew it.

See? So sad. But worth it. Go give it a read.

Crucifixion and Liberation | Sarah Over the Moon | Sarah Moon

Okay, so I didn’t technically read this piece in the last week, but I don’t think the fine folks at the Daily Post are going to come taze me over it. (I hope not, Daily Post peeps, because that’s super weird. And probably really uncomfortable. I’m not going to offer you coffee if you taze me. Just so we’re clear.)

I came across Ms. Moon’s writing when she was featured on Freshly Pressed a while back, and I’ve been a loyal reader ever since. Her blog mostly focuses on her journey making sense of her Christian roots as she ages and her perspectives change, which is something I (and many, many people I know) can relate to.

This particular piece reflects on what the death of Jesus, Christianity’s savior, meant at the time and what it means now. It might be a little overwhelming if you have no familiarity with the theology of Christianity, but it also might be a take on America’s most outspoken religion that you haven’t heard before. Here’s a favorite quote of mine:

Jesus stood with the oppressed. He healed on the Sabbath. He advocated for the poor. He spoke out against the abuse of women.

And those in power killed him for it. They silenced his message (but it couldn’t quite stay dead, could it?).

Maybe this is the real message of the cross. That the God of all creation loved the oppressed enough to become one with them, even in death–the ultimate tool of oppressive forces.

Why the Mantis Shrimp is My New Favorite Animal | The Oatmeal

You may have seen this piece running around the internet like crazy, because that’s what it’s doing. And rightly so, because it is funny and informative, with colorful pictures. What else could you want? Hmm? You want more, you say? Well, it also happens to be inspired by one of my other favorite things that the internet—nay, modern civilization—has to offer: Radio Lab. They did an episode on colors, and the Oatmeal ran with it. Perfecto. So now you have TWO fabulous things to go check out in this ONE bullet point. Ab fab.

The rainbow we see stems from just THREE colors, so try to imagine a mantis’ rainbow created from SIXTEEN colors. Where we see a rainbow, the mantis shrimp sees a thermonuclear bomb of light and beauty.

So there you go! Three fabulous things to check out on the internet. Wasn’t that fun? Maybe I’ll do it more often. Then I won’t feel like such a slouch for reading stuff on the internet like it’s my job. Everyone wins.

Lemme know what you think of these great posts/writers. And if you’ve read something amazing lately, feel free to share.

p.s. Bonus link! After my post last week about how terrible pregnancy is, my friend Amy sent me this bit on Jezebel about pregnancy. It is hilarious and true and awful all at once. I’m not at all jealous that I didn’t write it (I’m totally jealous that I didn’t write it.).

What Happens When a LOT of People Read Your Blog

Spotlight

Photo By vic.bergmann @ Flickr

Okay, so…if you didn’t catch all the hubbub, last week I found myself and this little piece on Freshly Pressed. They say that it’s “the best of 382,958 bloggers [&] 1,052,405 new posts.” And a LOT of people subscribe to, and read Freshly Pressed.

It’s kinda like getting high fived in the face by two thousand strangers, with a hammer.

I mean, it’s good, right? Like, high fiving is a feel-good activity, but this—this is INTENSE. I mean—whoa.

There’s me…lookin’ all normal like it’s NBD.

So, when I came back to my trusty little computer after a morning at the zoo with the kid (who told me that the bonobo had a “crazy butt.” She’s two. She’s not wrong.) and discovered a billion WordPress notifications, I knew something was up. So I checked my Freshly Pressed feed, and there I was. Me. Lookin’ all normal like I belonged there. At which point, I was entering Crazytown. Population: me and, like, 2200 other people.

Of course I didn’t hyperventilate a little. Come now; I’m an adult. And of course I didn’t start criticizing myself, wishing I had updated this, and spruced up that, and thinking about how surely someone would get upset at my fledgling feminism and wag their finger at me, and how I’d have to apologize for…I dunno…something… *pant, pant, pant*

And this got me thinking about Brené Brown again, probably because I love her so much and want to hug her (which is inappropriate from strangers, ya’ll. Somebody help me.). It got me thinking about vulnerability, and how writing is inherently vulnerable and how I feel like I’m exposing myself in the desert, just waiting for the sun and wind and sand to shave my skin off. It’s mildly terrifying.

Being creative in any form is hard. I have seen more than one person a little off his rocker after years of the ups and downs of art. They say that you are your own worst critic and I, frankly, am a damn good critic. “Slice to the bone!” I say as I wield my red pen of judgement. “Let no sentence go unscathed!”

It reminds me of a scene in The Anniversary Party (has anyone seen it? I kinda liked it. Until it turned into a drug-fueled sex party, that is. Some good moments nonetheless). I love this:

Sophia Gold: Sally! His image of you is a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sally Nash: But I *am* a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sophia Gold: No you are not! You are Sally Nash!

But this is what Brené keeps telling me: vulnerability is GOOD. It’s what allows us to connect to one another. And connecting to one another is what makes us feel human; it’s what makes us feel alive. And—boy—that’s basically what I want. I want to feel human. I want to feel alive. I want to feel connected and less alone. And the more I reveal of myself and live that out truly, the more connected I become with people. Hot dang.

Writing here is fostering relationships with real life people that I’ve known for a long time—just because they get to hear the intimate details of my mind and heart in a way that might not come up in casual conversation. It’s also connecting me with new people—a new tribe of writers that make me feel like I belong somewhere. Like my friend Jerrod, whom I’ve never met in person, but was the first person who made me feel like I might actually be okay at blogging.

It’s good. It’s terrifying and nerve-wracking and it has the power to make me feel elated one day and dejected the next, but overall—it’s good. Thank you internet.

So on days when I get to see SO MANY people like and respond to my work—to my vulnerability—I have to just take in the good and be thankful for the experience of connection. I have to look myself straight in the eye and say, “You are Sally Nash!” (It’s okay that my name is Melanie. It works just the same).  I need to bottle up this feeling and hold on to it for when the dark cloud of self-doubt comes again (which is due in like, what? 10 minutes? 2 hours? Something like that.)

Life—sometimes that shit’s magical.

So, I want to thank all of you that have been reading, subscribing, like-ing, commenting, and engaging in general badassery. You all are THE. BEST. Go get yourselves some beers, you little rascals.

Love,

-M

Your Words Matter. Don’t Be a D*ck With Them.

Psst. Check out my featured post over at Studio30Plus, a writer’s collective for people over 30. Here’s a preview:

Photo By melinnis @ Flickr

Our Words Matter

When you write them down and send them to the glorious internet; or get them bound, published and shipped through Amazon; or get them typeset and printed and in the hands of a producer—those words weave together to create our thought world. Your words go out there and tell us who we are. They tell us what our values are. They paint what is stunning and gorgeous; what is dark and horrifying; what is magical, and what is macabre.

Go read the rest, okay? Cool.

It’s Easy to Dream. It’s Hard to Do.

FAME IS FOR DOERS

Image by AMERICAN ARTIST BEN MURPHY, on Flickr

I watch a lot of TV. It’s time to admit it. Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m all modern and innovative and “above it all” (ohmigod, how obnoxious) because we don’t have cable or an actual television, and we just watch Hulu and Netflix on our MacBook Pros. Soooo progressive, right?

As it turns out, you don’t need cable to watch a billion hours of TV. Netflix and Hulu work just fine for that. And I’m like an addict. Once I get on a show, it’s like I can’t get enough. I can’t watch enough. I need to see what happens next. I don’t care that it’s midnight and I need more sleep than a hibernating bear—I NEED TO SEE IT!

Netflix is actually worse in this way. Case in point: on Netflix, you CAN watch 4 old episodes Grey’s Anatomy in one sitting, because they’re all there, just waiting for you. They even prompt you to click the “Next episode” button like it’s the most natural thing in the world. I wish they would get rid of that button and just put up a quick screen saying, “Who are we kidding? You’re not going anywhere. Just sit down while we play the next one.” Just so we can all be honest.

TV Shows We Used To Watch - 1955 Television advertising

Photo by brizzle born and bred, on Flickr

At least the cable company controls your consumption. They give you just a little at a time. They give you commercials so you can go pee or brush your teeth and stuff like that. They give you the opportunity for a little dignity.

(Story detour: one time when we actually had cable, we decided that we wanted to cancel it. Cable companies are NOT cool with this move. They think it’s weird. Plus, they like your money. So I called and said, “I want to cancel my cable service.” and the lady said, “How about we give you three months free?” and I said, “Well, okay…not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth, lady.” At the end of the three months I called back again to cancel it and they offered me another great deal. They’re like drug dealers, I tell you. Drug dealers with a call center. So finally, I just said, “I want to cancel my cable service because the TV is sucking my soul out.” to which the lady said, “Right away ma’am.” and we were done. Which proves once again, crazy works.)

ANYWAY, so I’ve been serially watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. We watched the first two seasons a few years ago, then just never picked it up again. But the first 7 seasons (seven!) are on Netflix, so, you know…I kinda watched many, many episodes in a row.

Now, if you don’t like the show, just shush for a second, okay? I just want to say that the writing is brilliant (brilliant!). Sure, there’s the occasional unbelievable response or plot hole—some unconvincing element that likely arose from talent leaving or needing time off or something—but by and large they deliver on every. episode.

What I love about the show is that it always has a theme, it always weaves little life lessons. It deals in fears and struggles. Grey’s Anatomy finds all of those intimate moments where we keep our words silent for fear of facing them, and it intrudes upon them. It unearths the mess.

But it also looks for beauty among the dying, diseased, and broken. The hospital has to be the perfect metaphor for our lives—lives in constant states of repair, remission and relapse. Lives without a known ending. Lives full of mystery and defeat and hope. It’s the perfect metaphor and the writers of Grey’s are freaking nailing it.

As I watch episode, after episode, after episode of this cursedly good show, I find myself dreaming…I want to write those words. I want to write the words that inspire thought and introspection. I want to write words that remind us all of our humanity and of our connection. Words that remind us that grace can be as battered and bruised and defeated as a dying man, but it can still fight its way back to life. I’m a writer, dammit, and I want to write those words.

But in order to write those words, or any words, I’ve got to get my fingers on the keyboard. I’ve got to force myself to get something on the page. I’ve got to force myself to churn the work out. I’ve got to grab the creative fairies by the toe as they flutter through my mind at inopportune times, and scribble their thoughts down on notecards and napkins and post-its. And then I’ve got to be a freaking adult and make something of them. It’s easy to dream. It’s hard to do. I need to do some doing.

How to Write Drama Like a Hollywood Pro in Three Easy Steps!

1. Write about some people.

Guy on the Go Bus

This guy would be a fine character. He's even all thoughtful looking. Image By wmacphail @ Flickr

Just any people. It doesn’t really matter. All the drama will be taken care of in steps 2 and 3, so don’t try to get all artsy. Just write about your mailman, or hairdresser or a guy you saw on a bus once.

2. Sprinkle a little sci-fi on it.

Just a little. Like everyone’s normal, but then there’s a magical black puff of smoke that eats people (wouldn’t that be weird?), or maybe sometimes when one of the characters eats salt he can see in the other people’s souls. Or maybe someone has farts that cure cancer. But he only finds out about it by accident when he eats some bad tacos and visits his grandma in the cancer ward and then everyone’s cured. Just a little sci-fi’ll do ya.

3. Remove all critical and/or relevant dialog. Replace with “acting” faces.

tim usavage

Actors should make faces like this, but not say any words. No words! Image by diegodiazphotography @ Flickr

This is the most important step. Any time two of your characters are having a discussion and something absolutely imperative comes up, make sure that the character with the critical information, instead of sharing it, makes a sad face, or looks scared or opens her mouth for a second, but then closes it. When none of the critical information necessary for success/healthy relationships/normal societal functioning is communicated, everything goes to hell. And that, my friends, is drama.

For added instruction, I will now demonstrate these techniques.

A Story – Boring/Normal Version

Sondra, who is the head of a corporation, has been dating Mark, the head of a different corporation. Mark gets a phone call, learning that his young sister, Suzy, has a mysterious illness and is expected to die within the week. Mark, being so upset, goes to see Sondra. They embrace, and talk about how this news makes them feel. They decide that family is what is most important, and they both decide to take as much vacation time as they can to be with Suzy. On the way over to the hospital they listen to NPR, but then turn it off so they can think in silence. A week later, Suzy dies and they attend her funeral, where they reflect on their lives and decide to volunteer at the hospital once a week. The end.

The Only Story That Will Ever Matter – Hollywood Version

Sondra, who is the head of a corporation, has been dating Mark, the head of a different corporation. Mark gets a phone call, learning that his young sister, Suzy, has a mysterious illness and is expected to die within the week. Mark thanks the doctor, hangs up, looks at a picture of himself, Sondra, and Suzy, then quickly turns over the picture, and gets back to work—ignoring the fact that he just received devastating news.

Meanwhile, Sondra is giving a presentation to the board of directors. Mid-sentence, she collapses onto the table, spilling her water, then stares off creepily while whispering, “Suzy.” A moment later, she straightens up and continues with the presentation. Even though EVERYONE in the room is thinking, “Holy sh*tballs, what was that?!” no one says a word.

Sondra and Mark are having dinner. Suzy is weighing heavily on both of their minds. “I’ve been thinking a lot about Suzy,” says Sondra nonchalantly over her tortellini. “Really? Why is that?” asks Mark. [Note: this is where the characters would normally share the interesting/important information from their lives. DON'T LET THEM DO IT!] Sondra opens her mouth for a second, then closes it, then says, “Just because. We should have her over for dinner.” Mark nods, makes a very serious face, then opens his mouth a little, then closes his mouth, then nods again.

Later Sondra finds herself compelled to wander the halls of the local hospital. She finds Mark hovered over Suzy’s lifeless body, crying. “Mark?! Wha…?” Sondra sputters, confused. “I…” starts Mark, but Sondra holds a finger up to his mouth. Mark turns for the door, having made serious faces. Sondra puts her hand on Suzy who, against all odds and rules of reality, twitches oh so slightly and says, “Mark?” Sondra opens her mouth to call to Mark, but then doesn’t. The end.

See how that works? You could probably write something normal that actually happened to you, then just go back with a black marker and take out anything that seems even slightly important. And add magic. Reality – common sense + mystery = drama. The point is to work the audience into a fervor with their desire to see the characters communicate like rational humans.

Feel free to add your secret spices to the pot, folks. It’s for the arts.

What Makes You

Over the past 24 hours, my new neighbors downstairs, the musicians, have been experimenting with the electric organ and its possibilities in the landscape of their music. Primarily, this has consisted of two chords being played one after another, over and over in a sort of trance-like repetition. They worked with these two chords for many hours last night. Then again, today in the morning. And right now, they’re still playing the two chords.And they’ve added a very 90s-esque electric guitar.It’s not terrible, it’s just part of being a musician. I get it. Sounds like crap to everyone who has to hear the process, but that’s how music is written. It’s just that most of the time we don’t have to hear the rough sketch.

But now…now they’ve added bad electric drums. And the synthetic bass drum is buzzing in my ears, threatening to drive me insane or wake my napping child (or likely a combination of the two). It’s taking everything in me to not go down there, channel my inner 85 year old woman, and tell them to, “keep that derned racket down!”

I started a speech in my head. It went something like, “Hey guys, can you keep it down a little? Maybe plug in some earphones? I mean, I’m a musician…I get it, but…”

I had hit a sticking point in my imaginary speech. “I’m a musician?” I asked myself. I mean, I am. I think. The thing is, I haven’t written anything new or recorded anything new in many years now, so I’m getting dangerously close to the phrase “I was a musician.” Now that my mind had unearthed this little insecurity, I had to grab it. Pick at it. Figure it out.

Am I really so out of practice that I can no longer be called a musician? Was I ever good enough to make that claim to begin with? What makes you a musician? What makes you anything?

Bach off I'm a Musician

By ryanmotoNSB

In the end, the thing that makes my noisy neighbors musicians is this: they are actively playing music. Right now their fingers are pressing down on those same two chords, searching for something to come out in just the right way. They are playing music. They are being musicians. And that’s it.

When my older brother and I were in high school he got on the tennis team. He wasn’t the school champion or anything, but he worked hard and he was steadily improving. One day, he came home after tennis and made a bold proclamation: “I’ve figured out the key to playing tennis!”

I had no real interest in playing tennis, let alone being any good at it, but it’s hard for me to pass up the key to anything, so I asked him what it was. “You just hit the ball over the net,” he said. He gazed out the window with a quiet reverence as if he had just discovered string theory. I thought he was a little bonkers. I wondered what he had been trying to do with the ball up until that point.

Looking back, though, I think he’s kinda right. Getting the ball over the net really is the whole goal, right? Maybe the key to being a musician is just to play. And the key to being a writer is just to slam your fingers against the keyboard relentlessly until the words pour out.

Get the ball over the net. Let the notes ring out. Get some words on the page. Sooner or later you’ll get the ball over the net more times than not. And you’ll have a 45 minute set. You’ll have a book, or a memoir, or a journal, or a screenplay. And then maybe you’ll be what you set out to be.

Perhaps it’s simply the doing that makes you.

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