When I started going to the small church I currently attend, by my third Sunday there someone said, "Don't you sing?" or "Didn't you used to sing?" and from then on, I kept getting requests to get up and sing. I wasn't comfortable with doing that, because it had been years since I had sung and played my guitar in front of a group of people (and I'm a lousy guitar-strummer and a mediocre singer). This wasn't that artificial "Ah, shucks, folks, I can't sing" sort of thing you so often see from someone who is really dying to perform (we've all seen that, haven't we? And you KNOW that person is DYING to have an audience).
I seriously didn't want to do it. But I finally acquiesced. After half-a-dozen times or so, I became comfortable with the whole thing; after all, it's a small group of people I sort of know, people who laugh at their own little mess-ups. And I soon became very thankful that I had a chance to share some songs I wrote in the 70's and 80's that otherwise would have gone with me to the grave; truthfully, I had forgotten how really good some of those songs were! These folks began to call me "songwriter", and sometimes I would protest that I used to be a songwriter, but I don't write songs any more. My protests fell on deaf ears for a long time, but finally, yesterday, a lady asked the question: "Somebody said you don't write songs any more... is that right?"
"Yes," I said, "that's right."
Well, that stumped me at the time. "I don't know, the songs just don't come to me any more," I said. And then threw in, "Of all the things I've lost in life, I think I miss my enthusiasm the most."
Which, I think, had very little to do with why I've lost the inspiration to write songs any more. By the time Cliff and I got home from Church, I figured out the answer to the question, and it's a simple one.
I stopped writing songs when there was no longer anybody to listen.
Back when I was writing songs at a pretty good pace, I always had some group of people I could go to and say, "Hey, I have a new song. Would you like to hear it?"
People would call me occasionally and ask me to write a poem or song for some special occasion, and like magic, I would come up with something that wasn't too bad.
When that stopped, when there was nobody to sing a new song for or share a new poem with, the motivation was gone. If you don't use it you lose it, and I no longer had any inspiration. Still don't, really, even though I now have a small group of people who would listen. But it's gone.
Just now the thought occurred to me, how many people have I failed to encourage or applaud, people who might have gone on to do great things with some talent of their own, if only I had done my part in motivating them and their talents? Maybe all they needed was someone to listen.
Kris Kristofferson once talked about writing songs for people who don't listen, but he obviously had more self-motivation than I.
If you waste your time a-talking to the people who don't listen
To the things that you are saying, who do you think's going to hear
And if you should die explaining how the things that they complain about
Are things they could be changing who do you think's going to care?
[There were other lonely singers in a world turned deaf and blind
Who were crucified for what they tried to show
And their voices have been scattered by the swirling winds of time
Because the truth remains that no-one wants to know