By Donna Ulisse
Life continues to teach me how to write songs with every breath I take these days. I don’t know if it’s my age or being so tuned into my thoughts and surroundings because of my songwriting, but I am more aware and consciously choosing to stay in a state of gratitude and awareness. By making that effort as much as I possibly can, I am also in a place that keeps me ready to write songs. It’s a beautiful, creative cycle.
I was recently asked to co-write with someone I have greatly admired for years. He emailed me from out of the blue and I was jumping up and down as I tried to type back an available date to write. Of course, when I snapped out of my initial excitement, I had already sent the reply (gulp) when fear and doubt kicked in and ruined the mood. I started wondering if I was a good enough songwriter to write with this Grammy award winning, smash-hit writer who shall remain nameless. Whew, stress, what would I do without it?
I drove my poor husband crazy with my worries. He patiently said time and again that I was going to write a great song with this guy and he didn’t know why I was freaking out. Of course I was fretting that this writing appointment would be the one time I would be struck speechless and thoughtless – not one teeny song idea would surface and redeem me in front of my hero. I was hoping I would not be an utter failure. I started thinking of a “plan B” if this should happen. Maybe just once I should be quiet, and stoic to wait to see if this writer could come up with an idea. That way I could meekly contribute to his great song. YES, that’s what I would do. (whew). Suddenly I felt better, less weighted down with the responsibility to come up with the initial idea for a song.
I waited for the day to arrive for the writing appointment like I was waiting for my execution. Finally, the morning came and I packed all my writing tools into my brief case and picked up my guitar, put it in my gig bag and with a stomach full of butterflies, made my way to the car. We were to write on famous music row in Nashville so that meant getting on the interstate, which is always scary for me. Just as I cranked the engine, the skies opened up, and the rain started pouring. The gas tank was on empty and my nerves were on overdrive. This wasn’t starting well. Thankfully, I allowed time enough for such random acts and made it to the publishing office right on time but I was the only car in the parking lot. I started panicking, thinking I had the wrong day written down for the appointment. I checked my phone and saw a text from the writer saying that he was sorry but he would be running late. I don’t know why that made me feel better but it did. He was so late that I had a chance to write about a half a song that I was really digging before he got there. He was flustered and very apologetic as we made our way into the writing room. I, on the other hand, was suddenly feeling confident. As he made coffee, I took out my guitar and started noodling out the melody that was in my head to go with my partial lyric. Guess who loved it and wanted to help me complete it? Yep, my hero!
My husband LIVES for these moments when he is the one to finally say, “I told you so”. The song turned out to be a good one and I received the sweetest email from the co-writer expressing interest in penning another song with me. Funny how things can turn on a dime.
After reflecting on this experience I had to chide myself on my total lack of confidence. I love to write, and I know that some co-writing teams do not work out. Fear has never done anything positive for me as a writer but I let it get hold of me leading up to this writing appointment. On the other hand, gratitude always helps my spirit. So, my lesson in that moment was to not lose sight of what I know to be right for me, to stay in a state of gratitude and awareness and trust in my own creative process.