My 18 hour headache went away on schedule last night, which gives me hope that I didn’t drive all this way for nothing. Last night I dreamt about a writing conference where an editor held my manuscript in front of the whole group during a presentation. It was Nirvana right up to the part where she said nobody writes a perfect book and held up my work while she said it.
What? It’s like the song where the guy (David Allen Coe) sends his newly written song off to his friend with a note, “Hey, bubba, I’ve just written the perfect country and western song.”
And the friend replies, “No, you ain’t. It don’t say nothing about trains, mama, prison, rain, or pickup trucks.”
Friends will do that. Tell you what you’re missing. Tell you to be grateful you aren’t a songwriter. Mine will anyway. They’re the best.
I’ve noticed writers talk a lot about “craft.” Nobody comes right out and says it, but what they mean is witchcraft. When endless practice and magic come together to create a thing of beauty. There’s no better way to describe good a story.
Finding the perfect word or image is like a treasure hunt. We can only hope to display these treasures in a way that will resonate with our audience. Not everybody is trying to write a sweeping saga or an academy award winner. Some of us will be satisfied with a blockbuster hit with the masses.
A hundred years from now, they probably won’t be learning about CMA hits in collegiate music appreciation courses. It doesn’t matter to the guys who won the 1983 Millionaire of the Year Award.
Take this verse from the Charlie Daniels Band classic: “The Devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal. He was in a bind, he was way behind, and willing to make a deal.”
You can see immediately that (1) The Devil is a Yankee, because he went DOWN to Georgia. This resonates with the CMA’s largest target audience – the NASCAR belt.
(2) The Devil is probably a used car salesman, St. Landry Parish cop, or a politician. (No, mom, I didn’t get a ticket on the way down here. I didn’t even get stopped.)
In this story, you know immediately that the Devil is bad news and probably the antagonist of the story. You meet the hero second, which is unorthodox and a bit risky, but it works in this chart blockbuster.
There are six people on the lyrics credit for this song. It takes a village to raise a kid, write a song, and support the crazy people who would otherwise be working, but are trying to finish their imperfect masterpiece. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my village.