Always Carry a Butterfly Net: The Glen Day Two

My first official Glen Workshop day stands in glorious contrast to my horrific and hectic day of travel. I meet Over The Rhine along with a dozen other songwriters. I learn the best kind of skill – both practical and life-changing. I even get a birthday party.

Our first songwriting workshop sets the tone of safety and trust. We share the stories that brought us here. These are not stories of our travel mishaps, but stories of our musical trajectory.

Songwriter Stories

Linford of Over The Rhine teaches us to search our stories for themes. Foreshadowing. Little happenings that give clues to bigger happenings. I think of my story this way and it takes a new shape. My own creative tensions become reflections of my parents' creativity and repression. My own desire for affirmation leads back toward my parents divorce. My broad but shallow gift for playing instruments may be the outcome of financial struggles to stick with lessons growing up. So often, conversations about art begin to feel like therapy.

Every story around the table has pain. Tension. Some of us write to survive. Most of us struggle to make sense of this writing life. We struggle to make it a living. Even Over The Rhine.

Linford and Karin begin the week confiding in us that they cannot repeat the past 25 years of their musical career. The music industry has changed. Their bodies cannot handle the road another 25 years. Their bank accounts can no longer depend on album sales. They need to forge a way forward and someone has burned all maps. The well worn paths have are covered over from storms of change. Somehow, hearing uncertainty and risk and hope from these veterans gives me life.

The Number One Tip for Songwriting

Before we leave our first three how session, Over The Rhine imparts to us the number one tip for songwriting. For writing in general even. It's a good one.

Pay attention. Capture what you notice.

Linford teaches us to carry a butterfly net.

When that special something flutters by, it is our job to notice and record it for future reference.

I am encouraged to live this week ahead with my antennae up. Receiving. Entries in Evernote. Sketches. A notebook. A simple word document of sighted images and overhead conversations.

A few months back my wife remarked "we've got to ease our way into the light". I captured that butterfly. I'm still not sure where she will live, but I'm certain she must survive.

When I am stuck with a verse down the road, I can pull out my file. I can rummage through my net for the right butterfly, and set it to flight within my melody. She can carry my sagging verse to new heights.

This is good advice. I am listening. Serendipity is the product of years of preparation. I am paying attention.

Here are some butterflies I capture today.

One. I share a birthday with Poet Tania Runyan and feel the family of new friends at an upscale chocolate shop. Tiny cups pack massive flavour. There is something about those tiny cups.

Two. I meet poet Luci Shaw over lunch. She is at the birthday party, too. She is full of colourful stories. Once her and her husband had to put a mouse out of its misery. An axe works better than a saw, she says. She has a tatoo. Luci Shaw is awesome in unexpected ways.

Three. The koi pond draws me in. I watch golden scales glide beneath the surface. Mouths too big for their bodies try and speak. Glub. Glub. Glub. This campus is beautiful. These butterflies can swim.

This entire week I will stuff my net with more than I can carry. More than I can use. It is only when I return home I will find the time to catalogue my treasures.

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