Ever wonder how you ended up doing what you do for a living? You know, like where did that “want to” come from. It struck me that I’m unable to explain to others how that happened for me. I certainly didn’t, in my wildest imagination, dream that I would end up a producer and writer.
My childhood was very uneasy. A musical and scholastic failure in most every way, under a cloud of talented siblings, an annoyance to most people with whom I came into contact, and dealing for a time with an adult who felt that their pleasure was more important than my innocence. I was embarrassed and couldn’t tell anyone…you just didn’t talk about weird stuff like that. It was certainly not a good way to begin my life. I can remember as a 12-year-old boy, sitting on the front lawn of my house at 429 Shirley Street and thinking that I could hardly wait to die because it had to be better than what was happening to me then. There was absolutely no hint of creativity in me whatsoever…not anywhere.
But for an intersection with a living, breathing angel, I have no idea where I would have ended up. It was this teacher, born to be a teacher, who gave me introductory lessons on the cello, and asked me to tell her a little about myself. I didn’t know what to say because my life sucked, and the thought of that struck an emotive chord in me. Upon her asking, I was powerless to conceal the tears welling up in my eyes. I didn’t understand my reaction then, but as I look back now…it is perfectly clear. No one ever had bothered to ask me about me before….but it confirmed in my heart that she actually cared about me. She introduced me to the cello…and I took to it like stink to a skunk. Playing the cello changed my outlook on life and gave me a reason to live…a reason to hope. It is my real friend for life…not that I’m a great player…but my cello is a great friend.
Why do I bring this up when it is all in my book, “Runaway Horse”? Because it’s the foundational background of how I’ve come to view the origin of my creativity. Was I such a brilliant organized thinker who planned out my entire career step by step? Well if you know anyone who really knows me…that ain’t in the realm of possibility. When you have nothing but a vast expanse of nullity in the left side of your brain (except for a little monkey that sits in a lawn chair and eating banana cupcakes all day long) you will understand that my processing skills are in a continued state of lostness out in the hinterlands of Oblivia, and the possibility of ever finding the remotest logical thought …is like hoping to prove the Loch Ness monster is real.
Other choices surrounding the origin of creativity is the thought that it’s all just serendipitous or…or even genetic. In JD Vance’s book, Hillbilly Elegy he talks about living in a backwoods culture. His thought was that when you live in an impoverished setting for a long time, you began to internalize inferiority and surmise that your poverty and lack is in a sense, genetic. I understand that because that was my mindset in the early stages of my development as a child. I was beginning to internalize that nothingness.
Finally…..There was a “turn on a dime” experience. I found someone who was a caring encourager whose gift was the ability to nurture the hopeless. Where do you get that? it changed my life forever …it was like… BOOM….. and a creative spark was lit in me. Long story short…what ensued was unbelievable opportunity, awards, honors and recognition. As a result, my despair was transformed into “what could be “excitement, and so much overwhelming attention I could not possibly grasp it all.
My life became an adventure I could never have planned or remotely imagined. It was like going to the candy store everyday. I never had the inkling that I was working. Bricklayers work….construction workers work….farmers work. I got to make stuff up and make music…that just never struck me as work. I had the thrill of standing on the studio floor with the finest orchestral players in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and London. These are the best American and European musicians you could ever imagine.
I will never be able to adequately convey to you the feeling that rises up through you. You are met with the offering of sum total of these musician’s musical training and experience. The music flows through you in waves of emotion. It is an experience transitioning from rising streams of grandeur reaching a climax surpassing the most epic movie you have ever seen…then melting into moments of tender visceral beauty. As you stand there the beauty overtakes you and you find yourself creating your own sound pictures. Suddenly you’re lost in a vision of something like… a smudgy faced little waif in her colorless torn dress…handing you a drooping dandelion…and the music is so magical that you have to catch yourself almost reaching for her flower. That’s how powerful the experience is to me.
The first time this happened to me was in London and the first of many recording projects at Abbey Road. When the day of recording was complete, I went back to the hotel. As I was lying in bed with my wife, I turned to her and said, “I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this.” It was incomprehensible to me. You see I didn’t graduate from Berklee, Curtis, USC, Julliard, Manhattan School of Music, Miami’s great jazz program, , University of North Texas with they’re great lab bands or Cleveland. Everyone I worked with had….but not me. I remember sitting in the commissary of a studio I was at and everyone was sort of making fun of the other ‘s institution of learning . They were all the schools I just mentioned. As the dialogue continued they asked me, the producer where I studied. I said Mary College in Bismarck, North Dakota. Everything got quiet and they changed the subject.
My answer to the orgin of creativity is this. I can only reckon that he source of my creativity came not by chance, genetics or the sum total of my life experiences alone. The source of my creative abilities came from a power much greater than myself, and I can only view it as a gift… as heavenly charity. I had no more to do with it than I did the color of my skin……no question…I worked very hard, but I have seen just as many people work as hard but did not have this specific gift.
SO WHAT’S YOUR POINT GREG…GET TO THE POINT!!!!! SHEESH!!!!!!!
I believe that how I answer the question of the origin of my creativity has much to do with the way I view others and the world around me. When I come to the conclusion that I was given a gift, I become very grateful …very grateful indeed. But when I have the notion that I’m solely responsible for my success, there is greater ease or tendency to diminish anything or anyone around me. It’s as easy as a quick judgmental look, name-calling, hateful thought or action, because it’s all about me, what I do and….what I’ve done.
Dr. Steven Stonsny, wrote this in his piece entitled, “Anger In the Age of Entitlement”, “Appreciating you enhances life ….Failure to appreciate you diminishes it.” When I’m grateful for what’s been given to me, I’m exponentially more likely to appreciate the gifts in others and value them in kind. My gratitude does not diminish my significance, but moreover, enhances my life. Even when a gift is received, it can be received in a spirit of thankfulness or with the mentality of entitlement …”I deserved it.” My choice is the former.
Gratefulness is a positive powerhouse in life. In today’s societal swim, gratefulness is a vibrant thread in our moral weave, the marrow of the backbone our country and one of the most important essential oils nurturing every world culture. Gratefulness for what we have been given offers us tremendous freedom…. and that freedom gives our lives limitless opportunities, opportunities for good,,,, opportunities to make this world a better place for our children when we are long gone.
6 thoughts on “GRATEFULNESS”
Oh I love the Vance book too. CS Lewis noted our propensity to “figure out what we did to deserve a blessing,” which of course obviates the whole idea of a blessing. It’s even hard to say, “I have this gift” since it implies entitlement in our world. But I am grateful for you and your gifts – and mine too. 🤗
When I’m given a gift I can respond two ways. Gratitude or Entitlement. You and I both have chosen the former. Love you, buddy. Heal well. ❤️
I so appreciate the way you have articulated this truth so simply, so truly, so humbly. I have never planned ahead for anything in my life. I have just stepped, and stepped, and always, always, have been met by the Author of Creativity, who designed my life and secured my future. We just walk in His Way, and, looking back, are overwhelmed with gratitude for what He has done to pour blessing on us and others and bring glory to Himself.
As soon as I started reading this, my brain was jumping way ahead and saying “Greg, you were gifted by God Almighty to do what you do.” He not only gifted you with great musical abilities in playing, writing and producing, but He gifted you, and Pam, with a wonderfully humble spirit that you have not lost with your success (when so many others do lose it). I feel blessed to know you and Pam, because in my tiny world I need to know and see genuine people.
I also suffered the tyranny of abuse as a child. Because the only way to deal with it is to internalize it as your own fault, it is virtually impossible to banish. I find that, through grace and wisdom, I can watch it’s trickery, but that’s the best I can do.
It does my heart good that a gifted teacher changed your focus and trajectory. I’m a believer that teaching is perhaps the most important profession. Your gifts prevailed and you have made music that has changed lives.
Conni….I think what people don’t understand is how it affects you your entire life. You hit the nail on the head when you said you watch out for that trickery and it makes you always kinda wondering. Your life is like going to the carnival and plaing that game where you use a spongy hammer to keep knocking down the men who are constantly popping up. You get over the initial devastation, but somehow that occurrence just keeps unconsciously being there and expressing itself in us in different ways….and not always good ways. I will survive because of the beauty people like you bring into my life. I wish I could jump right through this phone right now and give you a “I’m with you, girl” hug. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this little piece. I’m grateful. Cheers!!! 😍