We finally did it! Yesterday I finished recording the lead vocals on the last song of the album! It has been a long process, and I must admit I entered the process completely naive. I had lustrous dreams of recording an album, with no idea the grit and determination it would require, or how it would stretch me and redefine how I wrote music. I’ve learned a lot and want to share some of my lessons with for however you create with whatever mediums you use; here are six things I learned about the creative process.
- Just because you’re talented doesn’t mean you’re a prodigy. Now hear me out, I know I’m not a prodigy but I thought I could ride the coattails of talent. The reality is, no matter how talented you are producing art takes so much energy from a person, which makes sense. We should put components of ourselves inside everything we create. Our best creations should cost us something, time, energy, money, and an authentic aspect of ourselves. My songs are my story. While placing the final touches on the album, after my mom’s death, I was forced to dig deeper into my pain and suffering in an attempt capture the essence of humanity. If true art disturbs us to the point of an authentic reaction, then it must be constructed at a cost. Creativity is the culmination of raw materials of the self, regardless of how batter and bruised one may be.
- Find a cheerleader. This could be the best advice of my blogging history. I happened to marry my cheerleader. Being a musician, or creator of any form, often means we possess a certain demeanor (especially when it comes to our creative outlet). That being said it is easy for me to listen to a song I’ve written and think it is garbage. I find it incredibly difficult to be satisfied with my work, much less proud. In instances like this, a cheerleader becomes the most important component to not resigning myself to the pits of despair…in walks Brandon. He isn’t dishonest, he doesn’t say everything I write is good, but he is a powerfully positive force in my life. He is always speaking confidence into my work. In a sense, he has a way of looking at things that I often miss. When I felt discouraged during the incredibly vulnerable process of recording an album, I would put on his lenses and see things the way he does. This proved to be just the anecdote to my melancholy.
- Overwrite then refine. This was some wise advice I received from my producer Kendal Osborne. Wait, I feel like producer isn’t a full enough title…just think of Kendal as the brains behind it all. I wouldn’t have even known where to start in this process without him. However six months into the process half of the songs still needed a verse here or a bridge there. I thought this would be a rather simple task, after all, I had written all the other songs. I could not have been more wrong!!! It is so much more difficult to go back and add to songs that you thought were complete. That being said, when the moment is just right and you find yourself inspired to sit down and create something, over-create, overwrite, etc… especially if you are just getting started. It is so hard to recreate those moments where you originally received that inspiration, so milk it for all it’s worth.
- Never Underestimate the power of critique. I can’t possibly forget the first day we went into the studio to play some songs for Kendal and see if we had what it took to make an album. I felt like a kindergartener on the first day of school, but slightly more aware and perhaps even more terrified. For the sake of honesty, I was NOT pleasant to be around and had it not been for Brandon lovingly, yet forcibly, making me go, I would have backed out that morning. Why, you ask? I was terrified to be critiqued. A year later I look back on that Eden sitting in her house terrified about rejection, and almost chuckle at her. I have grown accustomed to hearing the words, “I think you can write better than that”, and “I’m not sure it’s quite there”(thanks Kendal). It seems those are necessary steps to create something that makes you proud. For instance, one song on the album titled, “Oh Good Lord” needed a chorus, and another song we scrapped had the perfect fit. Had I not endured the scrapping process, we wouldn’t have been able to complete “Oh Good Lord” which happens to be one of my favorite songs on the project.
- Celebrate little victories. Every successful day, every line of lyric that you write, every melody, transition chord, and harmony recorded is a success. The process of art can be slow, almost sedentary, therefore it is imperative to celebrate every step.
- Slow down and take the time to make something meaningful. The songs I wrote a year ago are almost all completely different now. We recorded scratch tracks and sometimes I listen back to those tracks simply to remember the evolution of my own music, and in a sense the evolution of myself. I have changed so much in a year, from being newlywed, to now our first kid on the way. I made it the goal of my music to communicate something raw about God, and I tried to stay true to this, meanwhile working to write all of the songs as soon as possible. There just so happened to be one song with verses that I could not construct. I slaved away for hours on that song and grew frustrated at snail’s pace of progression. I didn’t know then that God was working out something inside of me, keeping the canvas clean for a perfect set of words that he would give me at just the right time. The song was already dense and personal, raw with emotions and frustration. I thought I was writing it in the past tense, contemplating on experiences in my years of angst, however the reality was this song, unbeknownst to me, was reserved for the most difficult time in my life. In June my mom ended up in the ICU due to some medical complications. By the time I got to the hospital she was unconscious. I never got to speak to her before she passed away two days later. The pain was and is to this day absolutely unbearable. As the fog settled that had blurred my life, with an album still in the works, I was left feeling dissatisfied and frustrated. One Wednesday after a day at the studio vainly attempting to finish this song, I drove home at my wits end and sitting in my car in the parking lot for what seemed like hours. Involuntarily, my heart began to pour out the words that had been missing. Finally it all made sense, my frustration and inability to write these verses was a gift. No other song on the album contains the rawness of my experience like this one nor do any of the others express art as meaningful to me as the song I finished after my mom’s death. “Ruins” tells a story that God wrote with my life. I would have never chosen this path, but I am trusting his guidance as I proceed to uncharted territories.
I am not extraordinary, nor an expert, I’m just beginning, but I am a learner. I’m driven to excellence and determined to put myself out there to experience the full gamut of life. Recording an album may never result in a career or anything beyond the borders of my little world, but for me the success is summed up in a life that I now live differently. I sought out to change people’s lives through my music and the reality is that it changed mine.
So follow those dreams even if they are terrifying! Create something that is uniquely you. Being made in the image of God is not limiting, but freeing. Create something, use your gifts. What is God calling you to do?