I used to sing. People who have only known me in the last two years don’t know this about me and I am happy to keep it that way. I was decent at it so when I walked away from it two years ago, everybody and their grandmother had questions. ‘So have you quit music for good?’ ‘Will you ever sing again?’ ‘Do you know the parable of the servant who hid his talent in the ground?’ ‘Do you know that the bible says that if you don’t sing then the stones will?’ Church people can be exhausting. My answer to most of these questions was ‘I don’t know, we will see.’ In the case of the parables, I mostly just sighed and left it at that. Yes, Debra from Bible Study, I know that there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, okay?
I had valid reasons for walking away from the stage. Because it was the stage I was walking away from mostly, not singing. The stage had taken my voice and turned it into a tool that was supposed to be used to further the Great Commission or something like that. It took singing and turned it into work, into a chore. Anybody who knows anything about me would know that that was not an arrangement that was going to last very long. I am lazy. And chores are horrible. So after two and a half years of stage-hopping, of constantly being told that I needed to learn how to be lively and expressive on stage, of practising in my bedroom only to freeze on stage because anxiety is a bitch… I quit. I have not been on a stage since, my voice is now but a shadow of what it once was, and every now and again I meet a (Christian) person from my singing days who tries to guilt, shame or threaten me into ‘using my talent’ or else risk the wrath of God. And I am okay with that.
I’ve long given up on the dream of becoming one of those writers who can actually call themselves a writer because they write every day and have found a way to love running (because apparently there is a connection between writers and runners) and can quickly give an articulate response when they are asked, ‘What do write?’ I have not written anything in the last four months apart from unending work emails, sporadic journal entries, silly DMs and texts. If you are one of the post-demanders like Sally, you already know this because my last post was some time in January. Ironically, in that post I was hoping for a 2019 filled with consistency in my writing. But oh well. I also despise running. I despise most forms of exercise, really, so Haruki Murakami can keep his running-writing thing for himself and better people than me. And I stammer embarrassingly when my mother announces to people that I am a writer because what proof will I give them? This blog which I treat like an unwelcome house guest I am trying to get rid of? No. So that ship has sailed. If we are going by the (rather narrow) way that serious people define being a writer, I am not one. And I am okay with that.
I am okay with leaving this blog inactive for months. I am okay with Sally refusing to get off my back about writing another post. I am okay with wondering when I am in bed waiting for sleep, whether I will ever focus on writing, whether it will ever get off the backburner and come to the foreground of my life. I am okay with reading other people’s work and dreaming about a time when people will read mine. I am okay with ideas coming to me but leaving soon after because I do not pay them the attention they deserve. I am okay.
When I was stage-hopping, singing was no longer a thing I did in my bedroom, on my own, just because it made me happy. It became something I did because I needed to learn these lyrics or because I needed to practise this song which I was told to lead. It became something I did because people were watching me and I did not want to embarrass myself by messing up the lyrics or falling flat on a note. It became a thing I was afraid of, a thing I must do well, a thing that laid me out in front of masses for them to judge me. I could not cope with the pressure so I walked away and basked in the lightness that comes with the freedom to be.
I don’t regret leaving my voice behind because I have spent the years since then rediscovering myself and then rediscovering music. I think I am better for it. My voice certainly is not, and Mrs Mwonga, my high school music teacher would be appalled if she heard me today, but I am okay with that too. I can rebuild my voice when I am ready to. Maybe I will find a vocal coach or join a music school for a short course that will remind me everything I have forgotten. But for now, I will sing along with Adele on my own, in my bedroom, and I will be happy.
The best thing about this decision is that my writing now doesn’t have to go through what my singing went through. I know now not to put pressure on my words, so much so they start to fail and I start to hate them. I know not to force issues when I have nothing to write because there may not always be something to write. I know to acknowledge it when I have nothing to say. I know not to feel guilty for not writing a blog post because I started this blog for myself and I can run it at my pace. Sally will deal, like she has for the past four months. Humans adjust. She will continue to be the biggest fan of this blog because that’s what friends do even when your inconsistency frustrates them. I imagine she will even be happy that I am being so emotionally responsible. Sally, you’re happy, aren’t you? What’s that? You still want regular posts? Wow. No loyalty. It really be your own.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of those books I randomly reread in bits because it has been useful to my unlearning and relearning of how to engage my creativity. I used to sing for the joy of it. I used to write for the joy of it. And that’s what I want to relearn. I want to be confident about being creative for the sake of being creative. I am no longer interested in yielding to the pressure to be creative because people are expecting me to be. It helps that I recently met a nice young man who was looking for musicians to join a band he formed just to ‘jam’. He wasn’t looking to get more and more gigs and become some superstar. He wasn’t looking to make money out of it. He just wanted to jam with a bunch of other people who also just wanted to jam because music is great. Leon, if you read this, I will absolutely reply to your text and I hope you found people to just jam. Music for the sake of music is a beautiful concept. Art for the sake of art, no strings attached.*
I am learning how to love my words now. I am learning how to let them be what they are. I am learning how to refine them without making them something they are not. I am learning how to be patient with them. I am learning not to put pressure on them to gain me followers or an income or whatever else professional bloggers want out of their work. I am happy to let my words come at their own time because all my words need to accomplish at this time is to make me happy. I am learning how to just jam. And why not? That’s where the fun is, right? Maybe in the process, I will learn how to sing again and I will join Leon’s band and my mother will finally stop randomly mentioning that parable about the woman who hid her lamp under a bushel, and there will be no more wailing and gnashing of teeth.
*Disclaimer though, if people want to use your art, they should absolutely pay for it. All of the strings attached. Art for the sake of art but accompanied by a cheque. Don’t look for me when you fumble the bag ati because you were doing art for the sake of art. I will be too busy trying to convince Sally that neglecting this blog is a good decision, not just another manifestation of my supreme powers of procrastination.