THE WATER TAP

My friend Gary Nicholson says he rarely gets writer’s block.
To him, it’s like a water tap.
If you turn it on every day, the tap works easily.
The water comes out clear.
Let it go a while — say, a couple of months,
Rust sets in and the water runs brown.
It takes a while before it runs clean.
 
Make something every day.
Turn the water on.
 
There’s a confidence that comes
From believing that when you turn that handle,
Something good is going to happen.
———
From “The Habit of Noticing: Using Creativity to Make a Life (and a Living)
Available in print, ebook and audiobook at www.dardensmith.com/store
Text and Photo © 2108 Darden Smith

LIFESTYLE

LIFESTYLE

There’s no substitute for cash.

But over the course of my work I’m paid in lifestyle as much as anything.
Being able to spend my years doing what I love
And experiencing all I see out traveling —
These are luxuries never to be taken lightly.

Yes, there are rough times.
I don’t have the stability (and bank accounts)
That some of my friends have — the ones with regular jobs.
My children grow up without the proverbial big-screen TV
But I don’t think they’re unduly scarred.
It’s a sacrifice worth making.

And I would do it again.

From “The Habit of Noticing: Using Creativity to Make a Life (and a Living)” on Irie Books
Text and Image © 2018 Darden Smith

NO PLAN B

NO PLAN B

My first wife and I get engaged when I’m 22
And her father sends me the letter.
He’s very concerned about my career choice
And wonders if I would consider a trade school;
Something to fall back on.

After I calm down, I write him a letter.
I tell him that my father always told me to never have a Plan B.
If you have it, you’ll use it.

I also say that when I get to be 30, if there’s absolutely zero chance
Of making a living at music,
Then I’ll think about some other line of work.
But until then, no.

The marriage doesn’t work out,
But the plan does.

(By the way, I grew to love this guy, and he became a big fan. Word has it that when I got my first press in Chicago, he carried a copy of the story around to show his friends.)

ADVENTURE

ADVENTURE
Summer, 1994

I’m the opening act on Stevie Nick’s summer tour.
For the three months that we cross the country
I know that a two-year odyssey
Recording, travel, promotion and shows
Is coming to a close
And I’m worried.
I don’t have songs for a new record.
Not sure if I have anything to say.

Backstage at some amphitheater out west,
Maybe in San Francisco, or San Jose,
The drummer in Stevie’s band, Russ Kunkel,
Tells me I should go on an adventure,
Drive across the country,
Do anything to shake the trees.

What he’s saying is I need to
Get out of my mind.
See something new.
Go find the songs.

Shortly after that tour I go completely off the rails
With a divorce-money-career collapse
And I start to question who I am
As a man, a father, an artist.
But instead of running from the chaos, I dive down into it.
Writing, always writing.
And from those upside-down days
I find a whole new bag of songs,
A new vein to explore.

Over the next few years
I come to see that
The real adventure is inside the walls of my own house,
My own soul.
I stop hiding in my songs,
And start telling the truth.

Russ is right.
Sometimes we need to take an adventure,
Blow the carbon off the spark plugs,
Trick ourselves into seeing what’s really there.