In order for music to live it must be sung. – Irving Berlin
I came across this quote from my favorite songwriter and it stopped me, as so many of Berlin’s words do. He spoke them after composing Alexander’s Ragtime Band which became a sensation for the most uncomplicated reason I can think of: people liked to sing it. So they did. The lyrics very deliberately and skillfully invited it. And that level of participation gave enourmous life to a song.
I’ve been struggling a bit lately, wondering about this intense desire to be published. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a child and I cling to it and pursue it because I trust the vision of that little girl more than I believe in the wishes of the person I’ve become.
I take a lot of joy in writing. I remember having an honest discussion with my tennis coach in high school. I really enjoyed playing tennis. But she asked me if I loved it and I could not commit to that. Only because nothing, absolutely nothing, in my mind and heart could live up to my love of writing. I have measured many things in my life against that intensity of feeling. And besides my friends and family, besides Tyler, there is truly, for honest-to-goodness real, nothing I love more.
So I’ve wondered, lately, why that isn’t enough for me. Why the need for such validation? An agent, a book deal, a publishing credit in a magazine, a journal, a newspaper page. Should I not be content to sit at a desk and do what I love best?
I have very seriously considered writing only for myself. Not because of fear, not to protect myself from rejection but because I question the need for that validation. What is the opinion of an editor, an industry, a public? I should not need their acceptance or attention.
All this to say that I seriously question what is at the heart of wanting to be published, at the heart, even, of clicking ‘Publish Post’ when I finish writing these words. I wonder about a childhood dream. A true love. A silly, but real, need.
I also wonder about Berlin’s words. About that participation. Because it is so very simple and true. A song is nothing if no one sings it. A story has no life if it isn’t read.