We’re all songwriters

Jeff Tweedy, a songwriter and musician best known as the leader of the band Wilco , has written a ton of great songs. He’s also written a couple of books. His most recent is How To Write One Song.

If you aspire to be a songwriter, there’s plenty of useful info in the book. And if your goal is merely a single song, the same holds true. (Tweedy is wisely lowering the “barriers to entry” with his book’s title. Writing a single song seems much less daunting than becoming a songwriter.)

But even if you never want to put pen to paper and create a song, you’ll still find plenty of creative fodder in Tweedy’s breezy and engaging book.

It’s not really about songwriting, it’s about creativity, in all its forms. The songwriting angle is really just an interesting construct, a device to get us to embrace our inner creative kid and ignore the critics, both internal and external.

I love that advice. Seems like we’ve heard similar suggestions before, right? Ignore the haters. Do what you love. Do it out of love, not out of a search for approval or fame or fortune. Trust the process, don’t worry about the end result.

It seems so simple, yet it’s difficult to put in to practice. Because we’re scared to be vulnerable.

Here’s the money quote:

I’m convinced the dreams we have for ourselves go unattained from a lack of permission more than any deficit in talent or desire. And I’m going to stress that when I say “permission,” I mean the permission we withhold or give ourselves to pursue those dreams.


Check out Jeff’s book… then give yourself a little more permission. One song at a time.

Sweet dreams!

Jay Bennett-era Wilco was the best.

Emotional Transportation

Peter Guber is a movie producer. He’s produced many memorable flicks such as Rain ManBatmanThe Color PurpleMidnight ExpressGorillas in the Mist, and Flashdance. He’s also produced some clunkers, but he’s got a nice batting average. All told, the films he’s produced have grossed over $3 billion worldwide and received 50 Academy Award nominations. 

Oh, he also co-owns the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Football Club of the MLS.

By the way, he’s also a bestselling author. His most recent book is titled Tell to Win.

Peter was a guest recently on Rob Lowe’s podcast, Literally! and had a lot to say about the power of storytelling. Check out this excerpt.

I love that term, emotional transportation. (Clearly this blog is like a Yugo Taxi that’s running low on fuel, but still…)

“Resonant, memorable, actionable.” Yeah, that’s the ticket!

The full podcast episode is here. And Peter Guber’s article for the Harvard Business Review, The Four Truths of the Storyteller, is here.

Keep sharing your stories!

It’s Only Words

Amanda Gorman‘s entire poem “The Hill We Climb” was note-perfect at the Biden-Harris inauguration yesterday. But these lines really stood out to me:

We are striving to forge a union with purpose

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

conditions of man

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us

but what stands before us

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another

We seek harm to none and harmony for all

Simply gorgeous… powerful… inspiring.

I hope we can live up to them.

A Real Showstopper

At the risk of being the out-of-touch, crotchety “get off my lawn” guy, I think social media hasn’t been helpful in regard to our current cultural predicament (see Capitol, rioting).

My friend Phil sent me a link to this PBS Frontline documentary:

I watched the program a couple of nights ago. Pretty chilling.

What really stuck in my head was when one of the experts being interviewed said that in pre-social media times, a person who believed in a conspiracy theory was usually a “lone wolf” crackpot. But through the “magic” of the interwebs, they could now not only find like-addle-minded folks, but also amplify their beliefs in the social media echo chamber.

It’s like the old saying “A lie will gallop halfway round the world before the truth has time to pull its breeches on” – only now that lie isn’t galloping, it’s rocketing.

Did you notice, in the footage and photos of the Capitol coup attempt, how many of the rioters had their phones out, livestreaming their seditious acts or “doin’ it for the ‘gram”?

Seth Godin (yes, I know, I’m a fanboy) totally understands the rules of the game.

Seth’s entire post is here. Well worth a read. His wrap-up is something I hope the Zucks and Jacks of the world take heed of:

Amen, Brother Seth! It won’t solve all the problems that America has, but it’ll tone down the rhetoric and the lies that are designed to garner attention.

Writing about Reading

The pandemic has been a boon for my reading habits. I don’t watch a lot of TV — although I did plow through all four seasons of The Good Place and loved it — so I had plenty of spare time to curl up with a good book. Or eBook.

I like to zig when everyone else zags, so while I did get a eReader, it’s not a Kindle. (Take that Bezos! I’m sure losing my business might sink your whole operation.) I bought a Kobo. I said “Kobo” not Koko!

Not only was my Kobo Clara HD cheaper than a comparable Kindle, but it has two features I really love:

  1. Any books I borrow from the Cincinnati Public Library via Overdrive are automagically added to my Kobo.
  2. Any web articles I save via the Pocket brower add-on (and I save a lot of articles this way) also are added automagically.

So I’m never short of free reading material. (Speaking of free, this is not a paid endorsement of Kobo readers… but I AM open to a bit of “influencer” cash… Kobo, ring me up!)

I also set up a Goodreads account recently, to start tracking the books I’ve read. Here’s my most recent half-dozen:

That’s a pretty good cross-section of my tastes, which definitely lean toward band biographies, “light” fiction/memoirs and humorous essays. I’m not a book snob by any means. Any book someone enjoys reading is a “good book” in my book.

Ray Bradbury, an all-time great

Tamara Shopsin’s book on the list above was good, but I thought her book Stupid, Arbitrary Goal was fantastic. David Rakoff’s essays are great. And better still, my friend Jay got a shout-out in the acknowledgements of Fraud (or maybe it was in Don’t Get Too Comfortable… I’ve been reading a lot of Rakoff.) Here’s what Jay said about him:

David was a great writer—really funny and poignant in equal measure. And just a wonderful guy. I edited him when I worked at Outside. It was very kind of him to give me a shout-out. I miss his voice and I miss him. He was taken from us much, much too soon.

I agree 100% with Jay’s “funny and poignant in equal measure” assessment. And yes, he left us way too soon.

Pandemic lockdown has been a real bummer in many ways, but it’s created more time for reading, and that’s certainly a plus.

Don’t be yourself. Be more.

As someone who prides himself on knowing a little bit about a lot of subjects (some serious, most not-so-serious), this quote really rang true to me:

“You can’t just be you. You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.” 

Mary Wells Lawrence, advertising exec in the 60s and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company

Ms. Wells Lawrence made her mark in the ad world (“plop, plop, fizz, fizz” ring a bell?), but her quote about how to exercise your creative muscles is certainly applicable well beyond the realm of advertising. I think it’s sound advice for any career field… and for life in general. Our brains need stimuli to grow, our souls need enrichment to thrive.

One of my favorite words (yes, I’m a certified WordNerd™) is “polymath.”

I’m more of a poly-dabbler, but you have to start somewhere, right? And I do think learning about new and different things makes it easier to find connections and solve problems.

The world seems more polarized today. Us vs. them. But how much do you really know about “them” when you’re trapped in your own bubble? By reading more, by engaging with more people across the spectrum, we all can grow not just our creativity, but also our empathy.

Hugh MacLeod, from the Gaping Void blog

HT to the Gaping Void blog for putting the Mary Wells Lawrence quote on my radar. If you’re looking for some creative stimulus on a regular basis, that blog is a great way to start to “double yourself.”

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