Last year, I got hooked on the country music soap opera Nashville and started fantasizing about having my poetry set to music by a handsome and earnest young guitarist, then being discovered at a local mic night by a legendary  producer who just happened to drop in for a beer, then catapulting to singer-songwriter superstardom. Too bad I hadn't written a poem since my high-drama teenage years. Then, as luck would have it, my company introduced a new benefit - the 40-Hour Sabbatical, i.e. a paid week off to work on some personal dream or goal. Destiny? I hear ya.


I decided to dust off the old habit of committing my deepest thoughts and feelings to paper. And this time, instead of letting them languish silently in a secret journal, I decided to rope in my friends Tod Kimbro and Justin Beckler (actual musicians, not just playing them on TV) to help me turn my scribblings into actual songs.

For someone that writes for a living, the writing part turned out to be tougher than I thought. After all, as a copywriter and creative director, I'm used to writing about every subject under the sun. But at the end of the day, my job has always been to tell someone else's story. To dig up their truths and share them with the world. This was different. This time, I had no client to hide behind. What if everything I had to say sucked? 

I posed that question to Tod who is a magically brilliant singer, songwriter, artist and pizza chef (seriously there's nothing this guy doesn't do well) and he gave me a marvelous piece of advice: "Just write about something that scares you a little to put out there." Well, it took me a while to hit upon what actually scares me these days. But I gave it my best shot.  


Sabbatical week arrived and I regrouped with Tod and Justin. I'd written a handful of poems (all included at the end of this post), but given the timing and everyone's schedules, we decided to pick one and really develop it as fully as possible. The process was fun, inspiring, and challenging in the best ways. 

I worked with Tod first to develop the melody, a process which started with him asking "What are you hearing in your head?" and me admitting, "Nothing. That's what you're here for."  Lucky for me, he was most definitely hearing things and wound up writing about 95% of the song. The other 5% came from happy accidents – usually me forgetting how lines were supposed to go and singing them wrong, but liking how they came out. After a full day with Tod, I was armed with a pretty solid song to take into the studio with Justin. 

My favorite part of the actual recording process – besides getting to say "I'm in the studio with my producer" – was getting pushed, challenged, and sometimes downright mocked (turns out I'm the world's worst tambourine player in the world) by Justin. His first words to me were, "This is a really good song." Followed immediately by, "But I hate the second line of the chorus. It just sounds like bullshit."

Goddamn it, I knew it did. I'd been wrestling with that line all along and had finally settled on a word that I thought was good enough. But Justin knew it wasn't. He made me change the line, as well as one other that that he said "comes out of nowhere and feels like you threw it in just because it rhymes."Sigh. Right again. His feedback forced me to go back and really think through what I was trying to say. To find my truth and say it the right way. "No throwaway lines," he commanded. Words to live by. 


And so, after a few weeks of writing, two days of recording and many hours of music producer magic making, my first ever original song is ready for your ears. I hope you like it. (Up later on my list of dares, learning how to play guitar well enough that I can perform it live. Just typing those words makes me sweat.) 


Here is the full, original version of The Life You're Living, along with the other poems I wrote. Who knows, maybe they'll all find their way into the studio one day.


Every song I ever loved when I was young
Taught me I wouldn't wanna be who I've become
Tied down tight by life and everything it brings
The pretty house, the pretty garden, all the pretty things

I could’ve stayed the girl I used to be
The one who wanted nothing more than to be free
To roam to every corner of the earth
Not needing anyone’s permission first

If your eyes stay fixed upon the road not taken
Blinded by the ghosts of what might have been
You miss out on the beauty that surrounds you
Right here inside the life you’re living in

Now I wake up in the same place every day
And I see all the same faces along the way
Sometimes all that ever changes is the date
The years cascade tumbling towards my fate

I could’ve crossed the universe instead
And lived out all the stories in my head
Could’ve watched a different sunset every night
A restless bird forever taking flight

If your eyes stay fixed upon the road not taken
Blinded by the ghosts of what might have been
You miss out on the beauty that surrounds you
Right here inside the life you’re living in

All of my fears came true year after year
And I wouldn’t trade them for the world
The life I wake up to is more than enough to
Keep filling the cup of this girl
Those faces that greet me they smile and complete me
With all that I didn’t know was missing
A heart to hold on to, a place to belong to
whole different song to be singing


Born wrong, just shy of perfect
Some extra pieces beneath the surface
Coded a little different
My flawless vision blurred in an instant

To have and to hold or to leave for the cold
Some choices can cut either way
I just didn't see how much more you would be
'Til your face hit the new light of day

You're still a star with so far to go
And the way you shine belongs to you alone

Growing every day stronger
Wish you could stay young a little longer
Knowing the road gets harder
Wish I could push you a little farther

I wish I could say I know you'll be okay
But my love doesn't trump all my fear
Hope the world will see you the way that I do
It's a beautiful view from right here

You're still a star with so far to go
And the way you shine belongs to you alone


Here's how it begins
With a smile and a sin
Another reckless spin
Through a heart you'll never win

It always hurts to try
To give the love and get the lie
You suffer til the last goodbye
It's the best pain of your life

Until the next one takes his place
The same mistake, a different face
It feels like home, this hollow place
This sweet disgrace


There'll come a time when the monsters turn real
When the dark shadows have something true to conceal
When what fills you with fright
Still draws breath in the light
But not tonight my love, not tonight

There'll come a time when you ought to be scared
When the ones out to get you are really out there
When your fear turns out right
When the bark turns to bite
But not tonight, my love, not tonight

So just close your eyes and hold my hand tight
The bad guys can't get you if I’m by your side
In time I just might
Be the monster you fight
But not tonight my love, not tonight


Bought another book to tell me how to live life right
It's never worked before but maybe this time it just might
Maybe this time will be different just like I know it could be
When that new year smell wears off I'll be the person that I should be

Thought I'd be a poet so I could express myself
But you make more money when you sell your voice to someone else
Thought I'd change the world but it wound up changing me
Somewhere I stopped believing that the best stuff comes for free

You can't outrun the dreamer, he’ll never set you free
You'll always hear the whisper of who you were meant to be