Bootcamp was not what I expected.
For one thing, it was incredibly rushed. Not in the sense of nobody savouring the moment, but more in the sense that we only met for a single day, someone had a flight out that same day, someone else couldn’t make it that day and, although the remaining three made plans to meet up later in the week to pick up where we left off, nothing really concrete materialised.
Instead, we sent a few voicenotes and kept it moving.
I didn’t really lament this too much at the time, simply because I was finally home and spending quality time with my family so I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to be disappointed.
Looking back now, after all the anxiety I gave myself hyping up this big reunion, am I disappointed?
I think the time apart did something strange to my memory of what we’d all created together. Not that it glorified or idealised it–our reunion only convinced me I didn’t recognise how truly great making music together was–but it tainted it in a way of making me forget that the greatest attraction of our time together had always been the authenticity.
Almost weekly, we would get together and pray and write and talk. But we’d also just be. The pressure I built up in my mind to be this incredibly creative force was really such a silly thing once I was sitting down with my friends. Someone had an idea for a song almost immediately. It was practically fully formed. Someone else started putting together a chord progression. We loved it and played around with arrangements. We laughed and sighed our way through our vocal disasters. We admired each others musicianship. Then we chatted and ate some food and chatted some more and ate some more food and said goodbye.
I’d forgotten how simple it always was.
I think, having always been such a self-critical lyricist, I’ve always imagined other people were as critical of me as I was without imagining that–miracle of miracles–they were probably just listening to my ideas the same way I listened to theirs: open to inspiration and learning. There’s a trust that comes with being vulnerable enough to share your stories with people who didn’t grow up with and like you, and to feel brave enough to put your precious pearls of creativity on the table for public scrutiny.
The people I write with are incredibly talented, but they are also incredibly brave. Every time we come together, they check their egos at the door and simply give themselves over to the music.
The people I write with are incredibly talented, but they are also incredibly selfless. This is something I know well of myself too when it comes to writing with other people–you have to be willing to sacrifice what you think is cool or what you think sounds great for the greater purpose of the song. Sometimes others won’t agree with you. Sometimes you won’t actually understand it the way someone else understands it. Sometimes the song will call for less of what you have to offer. To be humble enough to recognise this, accept this and yet still be willing to be what you need to be in service of the music is incredibly difficult and incredibly empowering.
I may not be the writer I once was, or the writer I know I can be, but I am surrounded by so much talent and grace that it just diffuses through me when I am with them and I forget about every fear, every insecurity and every bit of judgement that I have so that I can write what I’ve been given to write. It’s not laissez-faire and it’s not without discipline and focus…but it’s still the most beautiful and most freeing part of being alive for me.
Bootcamp was not what I expected because it didn’t feel like bootcamp. It felt like a group of friends getting together over a steaming mug of music and simply existing together for a moment in time. And I hope I never get so caught up in my own expectations that I forget that that is what creating and collaborating is supposed to feel like.
As songwriters, we are sharing little bits of our world with people whose worlds revolve around a different axis. Instead of trying to tilt to make a perfect orbit, we need to just allow ourselves to simply move.
Discipline and hard work are important, but so are honesty and vulnerability. I havent written nearly as much as I set out to, but I’m no longer afraid. Writing music isn’t like writing a novel or practicing medicine or calculating mathematical equations or anything of the sort. Repitition and regimens breed confidence, but do nothing for authenticity. That’s something that you need to simply make room for, and it will walk in when it’s ready.
I know now what I need to do and, for once, that is nothing.
Nothing but create.