Coach Marla Beck

Courage on a Deadline

by Marla Beck

in brilliant creativity

This Thanksgiving, I gave my 11-year-old daughter a gift I’ve been dreaming of giving her for years. I didn’t give a pony, a fancy trip or a camera. I gave her a song.

After studying a songwriter I admire, I composed a bit of new music at the piano one day.  I liked it, and I played it over and over.

“Mommy?” said, my daughter. “I like that music!” She doesn’t usually comment on the music I’m playing, and I could feel that her affinity for the piece was genuine. At that moment, I had a gut feeling that this song just might become her song.

I was scheduled to perform in a community talent show late Thanksgiving evening, so I had just one week to write the lyrics. I wrote them in stolen moments, taking breaks from my work; sitting with my notebook after my daughter went to bed.

The day before I was to perform the song, I realized the lyrics were still riddled with holes and inconsistencies. My child was not leaving the house, and I wasn’t getting the privacy I needed to continue. Could I really pull this off and finish the song?

The moment my child left the house to tend the neighbor’s cats, I put down the rolling pin, washed my hands and nearly lept over to the piano bench. I sat and worked with the 10, 20 minutes I had. Soon… whoa – some of the words were streaming through!

I got up from the piano as my kiddo walked up the steps to the house, and resumed baking pies as if nothing special had happened. The day unfolded as days do.

I continued to sneak in tiny writing sessions every time my daughter left the house. To my amazement, the lyrics came together early Thanksgiving morning. I was able to run through the good-enough-to-call-finished song two times before we left the house for family Thanksgiving dinner. Talk about a close call.

Later in the evening, my husband, daughter and I walked into a neighborhood church and sat in the back to listen to my friends read poems, act in skits and play folk reels on violin. The emcee announced the end of the show, and one of my friends shouted: “Marla’s here!!”

Whoa! No warmup. Just me, walking up to the stage to perform.

First, I offered a folk song on flute (which, honestly, was the very worst performance I’ve given in years). I was nervous and ran out of breath.

Then I walked over to the piano, adjusted the mic and played and sang a jazz standard. Evidently, I’d run out of rhythm, too, because the performance was so rough I couldn’t believe it. Was I really going to bomb tonight?

Then, I spoke into the microphone.

“Guys, I guess I’m really nervous tonight.  You see, I wrote a song for this show, and I just finished it today. I don’t even have the chords written out…” My voice trailed off.

“But we’re gonna’ give it a go,” I said confidently.

In that moment, I’d reclaimed my grit and focus.

As the song unspooled, I lost track of the audience and dove into a deep well of sound and feeling and song.

When I finished playing, the room went quiet before it burst into splintery, abundant applause. I got up and walked to the seats near the back, and as I moved past the rows of listeners, person after person told me, “that was beautiful.”

I’d succeeded at my aim: to gift my listeners with an emotional experience.

Finally, I walked to where my daughter and husband were sitting. My daughter was shyly beaming, and all night she hugged and hugged and hugged me.

Why Am I Sharing This?

I tell you this story to share with you a scene from my own creative life and work.

I tell you this story to tell you that, since that day, I’ve heard from 3 people who said my song lived with them for days.  

I tell you this story because the next morning, one woman wrote to me to say she, too, might risk trying to write like I did.

I tell you this story because I never feel sexier and happier than when I am being fully myself: creative. Courageous. Serious about my craft.

When I say the world needs your writing, I mean it.

Your daughters and sons need to see a happy parent/working artist.

Your friends need to be moved by your words and inspired by your creativity and courage.

Your readers need to leave their own worlds to dive into yours for a moment, so they can experience the fresh truth, beauty or nuance you have to share with them.

It is in these small ways that you can change the world – one child, one friend, one reader at a time.

Please: allow yourself to write. The world needs you, and I am here to help if you need it.

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