I have a slim gray book with wide college ruled pages that serves as my lyric book; most of the time i know how to sing what i intend to play, but on some occasions it’s nice to know i have a tidy volume to back up my occasionally unsure memory. Heading into Freshman year i decided that my old, red, spiral-ruled book was due to be retired; i had aptly filled the entire front section of it just as classes began, and i wanted a set of fresh pages to start all of my new emotions in. I literally put my creative impulses on hold for two months while i shopped for the perfect vehicle for my words, endlessly reiterating a practice set of “Bridge,” “Other Plans,” All That’s True,” and “Deadweight” while i held out for a new place to write. Finally, on a trip to South Street, i found the book. It stayed empty for a few weeks… i had this phobia that if i started it off with something terrible that it would always be affected by what dreadful thing i set down on that first blank page. So, i kept holding out.
It was a poorly constructed dam on my feelings, and eventually they burst out onto the margins of my anthropology notes — hardly heeding my attempts to herd them in the direction of my empty gray book. Each snippet just delayed my marking it up even more, because they were just that; snippets — nothing up to snuff. Ironically, it all changed the day that i skipped Anthropology, at the urging of Megan, who was skipping out on the 9am class we both had preceding it. Somewhere in the routine of talking to her and skipping class i managed to lock myself out of my room for a couple of hours with only my bookbag to keep me company, and i wound up in our lounge staring out into a gray and rainy day. That past weekend i had been to my first college party, and i had drank my first drink and smoked for the first time, and i had this endless swirl of feelings in my stomach … feelings just starting to develop about Laurel, feelings about what i had done, and feelings about what was to come.
I intended to have my slim book with me, but life is ironic; i gave birth to my first set of college lyrics sloppily on the backside of Anthropology notes, uneven and ugly. It didn’t seem like very much of a song, by my standards, but it felt like it should go into the book — it didn’t mean very much if i just read what it had to say, but it felt just like i felt.
Eventually Kenny returned from his class and let me into the room, and i promptly retrieved the book, my key, and my Ashland guitar. He was headed down into a nap, and so i headed back into the lounge. A capo here, a string retuned there, and suddenly it happened.
The book is plenty different now. By last fall i had already become too afraid to set any fresh thoughts directly into it for fear that they might besmirch the excellent average of quality material that i had established in my unprecedented streak of decent songwriting. I began to cheat — songs began on my computer, and if they were worth saving i would copy them into the book the next day. Soon i fell behind on my copying, and by last Christmas i had a sheath of songs stuck into the back of the book when i boarded my plane for Florida, hoping to get it all caught up to me.
Now the book and i work in shifts… sometimes there are a few consecutive songs that were obviously scrawled into it as quickly as i could think up lyrics for them, and then there are carefully printed ones that have been sung scores of times before i put them into penciled words. There is a difference, though, as i found in rereading it today. The bits from Freshmen year were… different. Frank. Reactionary. Unedited. Even the quality songs that i still play appeared in virginal and unretouched version that betray my original intentions for them. And, then there are things i don’t remember writing… my accounts of my misguided cancer scare, seeing Anastasia over Christmas break, and auditioning for Hair. Things that would never make it past the most basic of neurons let alone down to my fingers and out into the book.
In fact, my life hardly ever makes it into the book anymore… oddly enough, it stopped doing that at nearly the same time i started doing this. Which makes me wonder… where is my life going to go after i get tired of copying it down into here long after it’s already happened? Makes me wonder…