I play in a punk band called Fort Hobo. And by play, I mean sing. And by sing, I mean scream. And although I love the songs we write, our live show has little to do with musical talent. We’re one of those bands who climb on top of tables, then push each other off them. If there’s no mosh pit, we just mosh with each other, with two out of four Hobos ending up on the ground by the end of any given song. As we unplug, break down, and clean up at the end of our shows, we compare notes and laugh about injuries incurred during the set. Sprained wrists, bruised ribs, and gashes across the forehead are not uncommon, and we wear each as a badge of honor for a show well-played.
I was thinking about this the other day, as I noticed a certain show-related wound of mine was healing up. For the past month there has been a three-inch line across the top of my forehead from the previously mentioned forehead gash, reminding me of that great show we played at Syncro Studio. And although I certainly did not plan on being smashed in the head by an uncontrolled swinging guitar, some part of me knows it’s always a possibility.
Like most people, I’ve got a number of scars, each with its own story. A mark from a dog bite on my finger, a bump from a long-ago broken nose, and a shoulder that clicks when I rotate my arm above my head. I’m proud of all them. Each reminds me of the challenges and triumphs that life presents to us on a daily basis.
And those are just the physical scars. What about the emotional ones? I’ve got a lot of those as well. Spiritual scars, mental scars, memories of every girl who broke my heart, the loneliness of loved ones passed away, and so on, and so on. I’m sure as you’re reading this, you’ve got your own list of scars, whatever they are, and whatever their source. These are the results of living. Of experiencing life. The alternative to this is to sit at home, doing nothing. Being safe. You could read, study, learn, and perhaps become incredibly intelligent. A wonderful person, even. But that’s not really experiencing life.
Being a writer is full of its own challenges, as well as its own scars. The equivalent of a swinging guitar might come in the form of a rejection letter, and it might very well knock you on your ass. Or it might be a critic’s review of your work, or a friend who “just doesn’t get” what you’re trying to say in that latest piece you’ve been working on. And you’ll ask yourself what the point is, you’ll wonder why you even try.
I’ve gotten rejection letters, I’ve gotten bad reviews. Bad reviews from friends, bad reviews from strangers. But it’s all part of writing, it’s all part of living. If you’re afraid of swinging guitars, don’t be in a punk band. If you’re afraid of bad reviews, don’t be a writer. Stay at home, where it’s safe, and just write in your journal. Don’t let anyone read it. That is always an option. Of course, you may be completely brilliant, and no one will ever know. You may have the ability to inspire others. Your words might be the very words which spark the next social revolution. Your stories might be so good that they have the power to make your friends laugh and cry within the same chapter.
Don’t be afraid of life. Don’t be afraid of a few scars, or a few rejection letters. Be proud of them. (I have a rejection letter taped to the wall in front of my computer!) Learn a little bit from each setback, and know that it just makes you that much stronger. Besides, every bump and bruise, whether literal or metaphorical, is just another story to be told.
Photo by Rocky Norton.