“A successful writer is one who finishes what they start while striving to improve their craft. It’s as simple as that. And the only one who can stop you from doing this is you.” – Hugh Howey*
If any of my more regular readers got the idea that perhaps I was obfuscating a hidden agenda behind the seemingly innocuous postings of three successive morning “gratitude lists,’ then I must concede. That idea is sound. While trying to hold everyone at bay by posting my gratitude lists, I have secretly been absorbed in the task of cleaning up both the lyrics and music to The Oracle Sequence at the end of Act One of Eden in Babylon.
This is something that I can and must do. When I wrote that sequence, though I was “on fire,” I was also quite hasty in places. And I knew it at the time. I knew it — but I buried it beneath the sense of fiery inspiration that I permitted to delude me. I found thrilling the mere fact that I was finishing the Act at all. Add to that the sense that I actually stood a chance of finishing it in a dynamic way — a way that would intrigue and delight the audience, and give them all something to talk about during intermission — and believe you me, I was overjoyed. So overjoyed was I, that I readily overlooked the rough spots, vaguely expecting myself to patch them up later (that is, if I remembered to do so, or even decided to bother).
But then, after I had the great revelation reported earlier, I found I could no longer overlook these glaring errors. It was time for me to perform the logical clean-up, and not to feel bad about myself in the process. So I set about to do so. But I kept getting snagged. Snagged, for reasons that themselves seemed trivial, if not maddening. Maddening, in the degree of power I rendered them, despite their insignificance.
For example, I gave one verse of very quickly spewed, poorly written lyrics to three of my strongest supporting characters. If those had been real life Actors, playing those characters, I’d feel as though I had dumped on them for assigning them those lousy parts. All three of those characters, as later developed in my second complete draft are worth more to the world than the lousy lyrics I threw down on them. They’re my babies — I need to bless them with better lyrics.
Not only that, but in my haste, I took no thought as to what keys all these different characters should be singing their bits in the Sequence. Right after the verse I just mentioned, for example, the ingénue Taura begins to sing a solo to the main theme of the song “Oracle.” All the lights should be lowered and all the previous frenetic conflict be dissolved, as she begins to sing this song of spiritual calling. It needs to be her defining moment, where she sings to her guitar, as they all are gather in Nature, in the Outdoors, beneath the Stars. This is only her second solo in the show — and it is the first one that features her voice en masse before the multitudes, rather than restricted in a romantic setting between her and Winston alone. Obviously, this crucial performance of hers should feature her voice in its optimum range. But alas, as I just now have confessed, I took no thought for such a practical matter, so infused was I with the creative fury at the time.
As a result, Taura winds up having to sing this theme in the key of G, with notes much too high for the contralto whom I have intended her to be. I cursed myself. “What an oversight!” I exclaimed. Yet at the same time, I recall having furiously sped from one section in the sequence to another, overlooking every peccadillo in my path in the spirit of honoring the long-awaited arrival of the finishing of the first Act, which arrival now loomed imminently on the near horizon, a virtual, visible certainty of a happy event to come.
So I consoled myself with the memory of past faith. I figured that if I had faith beforehand — way back when — even as I plowed over every glaring error in my path like a bulldozer — I could probably summon up that same faith, and use the present day as an occasion to atone fully for my earlier carelessness, and craft the End of Act One in a manner befitting a musical of this caliber.
When I began to exercise this renewed faith, the landscape brightened considerably. True, the lousy lyrics were the devil to replace. Moreover, I had to change the key in that section, in order to create a key that could easily modulate into a better key to spotlight Taura’s voice during her solo. But then, with renewed faith, I realized that I need not be enamored to the music itself in the section where the lyrics fell short. I now could write new music along with the new lyrics, and make that section more transitional, and less overt. Ah! It all began to come together, at last.
And it continues to come together. What is the difference? Only faith. Only being open to new and better gifts from that great Beyond whence all ideas are formed. And people may mock me and scoff, if indeed they pay any attention to me at all. I hear their imagined voices already:
“Will you never stop messing with this thing?
It’s been years now, Andy!
Get off of it! Get real!”
It puts me on the defensive, to have to answer to such objections — real or imagined. I want to say I’ll stop messing with it when somebody finally picks it up and decides to produce it — and not a minute before. But that’s a line of malarkey – blatant baloney and balderdash.
I’ll stop messing with it when I’m finally tired of it, and when I finally abandon it. That’s the naked truth, unveiled. I pray this happens before someone picks it up, and not after. If it doesn’t happen till after, I could be hell on any production staff unfortunate enough to have picked up my baby while still in the womb. Let’s hope for an on-time delivery. In my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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Anything Helps – God Bless!
(* The Hugh Howey quote comes courtesy of M. C. Tuggle — a blog well worth the read, by the way.)