Never Gonna Bust Loose

John G. Hartness
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We all gonna bust loose one of these days

We all got to stay loose, come what may

We all need to cut loose on payday

We ain’t ever gonna break loose of these rock and roll ways
 – Ray Wylie Hubbard – “Loose”

Ray Wylie Hubbard is one of my favorite songwriters, and to my mind that means one of my favorite writers, period. I was driving to a meeting the other night when this song came on, and I started to think about just how little I’ve managed to break free of my “rock & roll ways” over the course of my life, and how that has colored everything.

I’m a theatre guy, and have done technical theatre work since college. I have a degree in acting, but most of my work has been either as a lighting designer or a director. For two summers during college I worked at a large amphitheatre in Charlotte where a lot of major touring acts came through. In that two years I got to work concerts for John Hiatt, Foreigner, Sting, Tina Turner, Spin Doctors, BB King, Reba McEntire, 10,000 Maniacs and dozens more. Listening to RWH sing about his rock & roll ways made me think about my own. That early work experience of putting together rock concerts for thousands of people left me with some attitudes and behaviors that have stuck with me to this day. Some are great, and some are terrible, but I can’t seem to break loose of them.

For example, I have a flexible approach to punctuality in my day-to-day life. If there’s something specific that has to happen, then I’m probably going to be early, but if it’s just showing up to the office? Good luck with that. I’ll be there, but I feel no pressure to be there at a specific time. I also like some instant gratification in my life. I’m willing to work my ass off to get a project launched, but I want to feel the applause of the crowd as soon as it’s go time. I don’t want to wait months and months for it.

And that’s where I’m going with this – how early life and reading experiences shapes our careers and our writing. I chose self-publishing initially because I didn’t (and in large part still don’t) have the patience for traditional publishing. Self-pubbing is simply way faster than the old-school way of doing things, and that appeals to me. Ditto small press publishing. There seem to be a lot fewer hoops to jump through, and less BS between the writing and the release of the book, so it appeals to my rock & roll ways.

If I’m going to blame Ray Wylie Hubbard for my publishing decisions, I suppose I have to blame David Eddings for a lot of my writing. The Belgariad was one (okay, five) of the most influential books of my teens, and a fair chunk of my character development can be traced to Eddings work. There will always be a snarky hero that tries to deflect everything with humor (Silk). There will often be a strong, stalwart hero in the classic mold (Barak). There will often be a protagonist who is in over his head and doesn’t necessarily understand what he’s gotten himself into (Garion/Jimmy/Bubba). These characters are my rock & roll ways, my influences that I have trouble breaking away from for any length of time.

We all have these crutches, these fallbacks, and these tropes. It’s important to understand them, to understand where they come from, and to be able to toss them aside when the time is right. What are your rock & roll ways? What are the influences that you don’t even notice until the right song comes on the radio?

We all gonna bust loose one of these days

We all got to stay loose, come what may

We all need to cut loose on payday

We ain’t ever gonna break loose of these rock and roll ways

 

 

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7 comments to Never Gonna Bust Loose

  • One of the things I like least about myself when it comes to writing (or to other things like writing) is that I develop this “it’s not like it’s going to be great anyway” attitude. That lets me off the hook in terms of investing both in time (why work if it’s going to not be good anyway? I’ll just go watch tv, read facebook, post at MW–oh damn!) and in emotional investment (I don’t care ’cause I know it’s no good anyway.). These are bad. Very bad. Bad. Because I can be good–I can write well. But I have to invest: both in time and in emotional energy. So I have to work to keep my confidence up and make sure that I believe in myself. I also have to kick my own ass and make sure I do the work I need to do in terms of effort. Ugh. Not a fun thing to try to do. One thing that helps is my seeing other people who feel the same, particularly students. From my outside perspective, they’re bright, capable, and full of potential. So I tell them so. And in doing that, I remind myself that I can give myself that pep-talk too.

    Of course since I’m going the trad pub route, the emotional investment is hard because, statistically speaking, the answer is going to be “no” most or all of the time. That makes it even easier to cop out.

    Not really rock n’ roll. (Oh, god, I’ve never been rock n’ roll. Ever.)

  • The Doobie Brothers. Eagles. James Taylor.
    I have always been R&R, R&B and a little bit country.

    That said, I was a child when social discourse was all about peace and social justice and the time it takes to get there. Hey. We ain’t there. It’s taking a long time to get there. Few of the people in my decade of high-school / growing up were ever about instant gratification. We were about dialogue and compromise and seeing other people’s POV even when it totally opposed our own.
    So, maybe that makes it easier for me to be a traditionally published writer? I don’t know.

  • Razziecat

    As much as I like music, most of it doesn’t influence my writing. It’s more the other way around: Sometimes I find a song that seems to reflect something I’ve written. There have been a few songs that put ideas for stories in my head, but most of my ideas don’t come from music. There are other influences, though, including Star Trek (the original). I’ve only recently realized how much that colored my writing, and it’s something I’m working to change.

  • Being raised in my Mother’s house, I had no choice but to love the blues. Then, of course, being a child of the 70s, there was Rock’n’Roll, but having horses and wearing cowboy boots meant Country. Lots of it. And my Dad introduced me to Classical music and 30s/40s/50s stuff. Musically, I’m pretty eclectic.
    If I have to blame influences for my writing, though, it doesn’t come from music. Frank L. Baum, Guy Kay, ER Burroughs, Stephen Donaldson – they’re to blame. I love taking characters and dropping them into cultures and situations totally foreign to those to which they are accustomed or comfortable.

  • Megan B.

    I’m not sure where it came from, but I seem to be obsessed with travel in my writing. Quite a lot of my stories involve a journey of some kind. It’s not even a conscious decision on my part; it just happens.

    I think the first writer to influence me was Douglas Adams. My early stories were attempts at humorous sci-fi, and I am not ashamed to admit they were awful! Really, really awful. :)

  • The sound track of my childhood was hymns – not gospel, but really old fashioned hymns. It was usually the melancholy, minor key ones (Man of Sorrows) or the deep, dramatic ones (It is Well with my Soul) that really touched my imagination. New Englanders don’t go in for dramatic displays or grandiose language unless it’s happening in church. (Seriously, y’all – I remember the day our pastor told us that it wasn’t appropriate to cry in church because it might upset other people. My mother was so offended she actually expressed her disagreement out loud in the car on the way home without first asking my father what he thought.) I think one of the results of that is that I’m always trying to write characters who are still and silent on the surface, but roiling balls of explosive emotions and energy just below the surface. There’s a reason my first solo novel that I actually finished involved a berserker who’s trying to keep a lid on all that violent potential.

  • Got my first James Taylor album when I was 7 years old. Yup. My first Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young when I was 8. The Dead came later, but they were pretty formative, too. What can I say? Mellow rock is my thing.

    As for my writing tropes, I’m not entirely sure where they originated, but my fall-backs tend to be these: Thematically my stories recognize that freedom brings with it responsibility, and in that responsibility lies plot twists galore. And plotwise, my stories often involve magic that has escaped somehow the limitations built into my magic systems. Because like absolute power, unbridled magic breeds corruption and evil. Not to mention cool battle scenes . . .