This post is #17 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.
A few years ago, I was invited to do a reading at a friend’s series called “In the Flesh.”
Because I am a gigantic thrill-seeking hambone who lives for the high-wire of small theater, I jump at every opportunity to perform live, including this one. It wasn’t until later that the full impact of what I’d agreed to sunk in.
You see, “In the Flesh” stood not only for the act of reading live and in-person, but doing a reading of sexy material. About sex. A subject which, despite all of my cursing and bravado and forthrightness, I have never felt comfortable writing about.
Did I know this when I agreed to the gig? I did. Perhaps you do not hail from an alcoholic family and therefore lack my experience in advanced denial and holding two completely conflicting notions in your head at once. It’s magical, I tell you! You would not imagine the nutty, sitcom-like situations you can find yourself in!
Anyway, there I was, a couple of days before the show. Too late to back out, too chickenshit to talk about sex with the class. So I did the only logical thing: I decided to sing about it.
For years now, I’d been noting the more unusual search terms that had brought people to my blog, and posting them every now and then in a semi-regular, semi-comic way. What I’d kept in reserve were the questionable, the adult, the outright perverse ones. I pulled them up from the text file where they’d languished, weird and dirty-like. And suddenly, they spoke to me, in rhythm. Then melody. I sang pieces of it over and over, rearranging them here and there, until they magically came together into what I dubbed “The Dirty Keywords Search Song.” I enlisted the help of a friend who played guitar and owed me a favor, he met me at the venue (on his way home from a flight, adding a rockstar, cosmopolitan touch), and if memory and the video documentation serve, we brought down the house. Even after a top-flight lineup of very talented, very funny writers. Including Nina Hartley, who gave me a big hug afterward and said, “You funny.”
I bring this up now for two reasons.
First, I’m trying to raise money. A LOT of money, $50,000, in case you hadn’t heard. And one of the ways I’m doing that is by offering incentives, to make it fun for people to give and participate, and to show my commitment to this thing. The entry-level incentive is a pack of MP3s, and, well, I thought it was high time that “The Dirty Keywords Search Song” got the full-on treatment. So I went back and re-recorded it the way I did that very first time, three years ago, to give as a practice track to my guitarist friend. I enlisted the help of Pace & Kyeli to add some nifty backing vocals because I was completely enchanted with their doo-wop skills when I saw them displayed in service of the World-Changing Writing Workshop.
And then, because you’ve gotta have a video to sell stuff, I made a video:
(I have to use the old, Flash-style embed on this blog, so if you can’t view it, you can click here to see it all modern and HTML5-style.)
Note: the MP3 will sound much nicer because I also got my good friend O-Lan to remix it for me all professionally and stuff. But the raw mix sort of works for the video, so I left it raw.
You can get this as an MP3, along with other assorted tracks, for a $5 donation. Or it comes bundled in a fabulous value pack with all this other stuff like wallpapers and a cross-stitch pattern of the Writer’s Motto for a $25 donation.
But there’s a second reason I made this video and am sharing it here: crazy shit happens. Things break, they don’t go as planned, they don’t come together. And if you are a little unsure of your skills or a control freak or both, it can be dispiriting. Your nice plan, all derailed by crazy shit!
The thing is, the very best stuff can come out of the derailment. The first draft that disappeared in a power outage almost always results in a better, tighter draft tossed off after all the long processing you had to slog your way through. The terrifying hospitalization yields a miraculous bloody epiphany which turns into a stage show and a talk and a whole new, happier life. There’s a longstanding literary tradition of turning lemons into lemonade which I finally, FINALLY get because it takes conflict to have resolution, and we all need to make sense of something in a scary world gone mad.
Speaking of which, there’s a third reason I needed to do this: because it scared me. And if you’re not terrifying yourself on a semi-regular basis, I can almost guarantee you’re not working hard enough.