I had forgotten.
The creative process is a consuming one in any form. I tend to get my brain wound up, and then, even if my entire being is crying out for rest, I can’t get to sleep. It can happen after critique group, it can happen when I have a new article assignment or an idea for a blog post—even after scrapbooking. But nothing fuels my insomnia quite like writing music.
Writing music winds my soul into a tightly-coiled spring. I get music stuck in my head anyway—for days and days on end. When I’m working on something new, it’s weeks and weeks. Words and melodies rocket in circles in my head, preventing me from dropping off to sleep. They percolate so persistently in the background that even after I do fall asleep, they crouch in readiness, waiting for a change in sleep state—and then the music starts up again, like an alarm clock. I wake up, and the problem I haven’t yet solved sets my blood instantly to boiling again.
Even the obsession of prose writing, which is a pretty consuming fire in its own right, seems mild by comparison. I’ve been blessed to find writing gigs on topics I really care about, so those projects can keep me up at night, too. But for the most part, I’ve learned to overcome that obstacle to rest. Not so with music.
Caught as I have been in a long musical dry spell, I had forgotten all this. I’ve been puzzling about it this week, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it happens to me because the function is different. Magazines are read and discarded; a blog post is read but not usually revisited. Even a novel doesn’t usually warrant a second reading, unless it’s Austen or Tolkein or Rowling. But music—at least, music for worship—is meant to be experienced again and again, working its way down to the very core of those who sing it—until it takes on a life of its own—until it no longer belongs to me, but to the people of God.
It’s a humbling, overwhelming thing, to feel called to write this music. And hard. At least, words are hard for me. The music itself is pure joy. Even in music school I was a freak. I never minded theory, and after I started writing I became a theory nut. Fresh, unexpected chord progressions, voice leading, part writing—I glory in that stuff. I’ll stick my fingers in and dig in to it like Julianna does to her applesauce.
In the week since returning from NPM convention energized and inspired, with all the creative floodgates open, I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping. Combined with Julianna waking up whining for water and Nicholas wanting to eat in the middle of the night, I am one tired mama. But even so, I’m grateful. Dry spells are good for puncturing my pride when it gets over-inflated. They remind me that inSpiration is a gift, not a right, and that the music isn’t mine. It comes from outside me, flows through me, and is given in turn to others, in the hope of making the world a better place.