“I’m the world’s worst singer. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket!”
“I used to sing. Then I stopped. Went to school, got a job, had a family, got busy. I sure miss it.”
“The only reason I go to church, confidentially, is for the singing! Where else do people sing any more?”
As a visible singer in the world, I hear a LOT of stories about singing.
Some are tragic.
Mostly I hear about why people don’t sing.
They’re waiting for a better time, the right teacher, or – heaven forbid – the perfect voice.
Here’s what I have to say about singing.
Want it to sound beautiful every single time you open your mouth?
It won’t happen.
Want to quit your day job, be “discovered,” get a recording contract, make a ton of money?
Don’t hold your breath, Sweetheart.
Music is not a commodity.
It’s not a product for sale.
It’s not something you need extensive training to enjoy or claim as your own.
All of the judgment, money, and competition (don’t get me started on “American Idol”….) has so little to do with the deep nourishment that comes from singing. Especially if you’re a “Singer” — which I often pronounce “Big-S Singer.” (Yes, enjoy that double entendre…). If you’re one of those, your heart breaks a little every day you don’t sing.
Your soul gets pruny and wizened.
When you do sing, suddenly there is a storm of inner critics telling you to sit down, shut up, get trained, don’t make a mistake, etc. So you have to assume that trying to sing at all is a big mistake. That one magical day those critical voices will fall silent and leave you to your singing pleasure.
Well, don’t hold your breath about that either!
As I told a new singing friend this week – those “brain rats” aren’t going to be quiet. It’s downright foolish to wait for them to be quiet before you sing, sing, sing.
Just sing anyway.
Sing in places where singing isn’t expected.
Sing for lonely people.
Sing your prayers.
Sing in traffic jams, with or without the radio.
Sing while you walk in the park or shop for groceries.
To quote the great Sufi mystic, Hafiz:
“Sing some songs to your pets and plants;
why not let them get all drunk and wild?”
Sing WITH people, too. Cultivate a dozen useful little songs for marking life events — like the sun coming up AGAIN (!) or welcoming a stranger or expressing grief.
Then teach them to the people in your life.
Become the song-carrier in your community.
You don’t need a fabulous voice to invite people to sing.
In fact, it can make them more comfortable to try it themselves if you are less than perfect.
Sing past the crazy notion that unless you make your living at something, it doesn’t count. Sing past your own personal “American Idol” panel saying snarky things and voting you down.
Most of all, sing into the deep ancestry we all carry — of people who persisted through unthinkable hardship, privation, displacement, and pain by raising their voices in beauty. Remember them.
Ask them to sing with you.
I guarantee they will come –and walk beside you in those wide open fields of blooming, buzzing, enlivening SONG.