I imagined that my guardian angel was helping me avoid injury or bad frostbite, and the only way she could do it was to knock me out of commission for a few days. Whether that was actually true, it helped me keep a smile on my face the whole time.
How do you deal with adversity?
Are you able to find the silver lining?
I’ve been making this album in Memphis with Matt Ross-Spang, a Grammy-winning producer, who’s worked with John Prine, Jason Isbell, and Iron & Wine, among others. He’s been a joy to work with.
Matt’s process is very different from the way I made my last two records, however, and the contrast has been eye-opening.
We all have puzzles we have to solve in life. Should I take this job? Should I move?
Should I marry the person I’m with? Important decisions, and usually there’s not a clear right answer. But with crosswords or other word puzzles, there is a right answer.
When you’re done, you KNOW you’ve solved it. And solving provides a great dopamine rush.
The common element in the book’s stories is that success comes from choices that increase confidence and competence, including working very hard and choosing where to focus effort.
In each case, there is also scaffolding (a great coach, supportive teachers and/or family, others pursuing similar goals, etc.).
We live in an age in which access to information is nearly limitless, which has its benefits, but it has also made us confront the world and its nearly suffocating torrent of problems. At times it can feel overwhelming.
If you’re honest, has learning more about these events helped you in any way? More importantly, if you're just reading about it and not taking action, has it helped the subject of whatever trial or tribulation you are reading about in any way?
I loved trying to solve the mysteries before Henry did. But I think the biggest reason I still remember the Black Widowers Club so many years later is because it introduced me to the concept of service – that at some point when I’m much older, someone will ask me what good I’ve done on earth, and I’ll want to have a good answer.
So, how do you justify your existence?
The stepfather is a caricature, of course. But there are also very few people in the world (or at least my world), who don’t have some control issues – times when we get frustrated at things not going the way we think they should …or at someone behaving in a way we consider inappropriate, …or at someone not understanding our point of view.
So what do we do when we feel that people are not behaving reasonably?
When unexpected things happen, we choose the reasons that resonate for us - reasons that fit into our understanding of the world and ourselves. These reasons form a narrative, and that narrative creates a lens through which we see the world, a lens that shapes our reality and influences others.
My anger was really strong. It came in waves. In fact, a few times it literally came in waves, as I found myself in a rage while surfing, one of my favorite things to do in the world, and not being able to enjoy it.
I was pissed. I engaged in elaborate revenge fantasies, things that I knew wouldn’t lead to happiness. They sure were fun to think about though!
We are the product of millions of years of evolution, a process that has helped select for traits that keep humanity going. It stands to reason that our strongest motivator is survival.
As I have mentioned before, when I’m trying to do something hard, approaching the obstacle as if it’s a matter of life or death can be helpful.
The first time I stepped inside a church, I was in high school. It was a funeral for several members of a wonderful Catholic family, the unfortunate victims of a horrible accident. I remember being moved by the sanctity of the building and the solemnity of the occasion.
Then the preacher spoke.
I fall in love with my creation, feeling like it's the best song anyone has ever written. Then I fall out of love and go back to editing. Euphoria, despair, deep concentration – they’re all there. It's an all-consuming process!
Needless to say, I'm not the most easygoing human if I'm interrupted during this process. Don’t mess with my muse!
I remember one songwriter who brought in a song with a lyric about “purple rain." One of our core members asked nicely what her intent was in quoting a famous Prince lyric. She got very defensive, and when it came his turn to play a song, she went on the attack, saying something like, “Who are you to question my lyrics when you’ve written such drivel!” Needless to say, she wasn’t invited back.
As a songwriter, I try to be as connected to my emotions as is possible.
As a numbers guy, I trust math and science to point to the best path.
It’s always interesting when the two point in different directions, since they are equally strong in me.
What do you trust more, your rational brain or your gut?
Why do you do this?I had been working incredibly hard on a big dream that motivated me every day. But when it came true, I didn’t know what came next. And that made me restless, dissatisfied. My life blew up. The woman left me (can’t blame her). I took a break from my business (almost lost it). And I started searching.
Prince, John Coltrane – two of the greatest musicians of our time. Even after achieving world-class mastery, they worked relentlessly to get better and create even more magic. On the flip side, both also struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, and perished early from related effects. I wonder…is it possible to create so much magic, and also lead a somewhat balanced life?