Adam Hill on the joy of failure
I’m Adam Hill. I live in Nashville, TN. I used to write songs, then I wrote a novel called Old Timer’s Blues about the Stringbean murder. Now I blog.
In late January I went to Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. I’ll tell you up front, if I read that on a blog I’d think, “Well, I bet you got it made. Piss off.” Honestly, I got to go because I work for some incredibly generous people. The place isn't even the point, though it was lovely. Thing is, I planned to type my second novel up on the trip. It was the first trip in 8 years with my wife without our kids. In the end, I decided not to work on my novel. I decided to take walks. I decided to try and get to know my co-workers better. I decided to linger after meals and try to slow down, connect, all that woo woo stuff.
I met with a Christian counselor once. It was free. That’s how I got there. He started by saying, “Think of a time when you felt God’s love or absolute peace.” I can’t remember which one but they are sort of the same. How you feel about God’s love probably tells you how much peace you feel. He then started the exercise, “Ok, so we are going to...” I stopped him, “I’m still thinking.” He had no idea what to do. It stalled him out. I don’t think it shows how unusual I am, just how unprepared he was. But I’ve always felt uneasy. I got ZERO chill. That’s the point here.
I chalk it up to unfinished business. I meant to go to Paris by now. That’s always how I put it. I meant to have a song in a TV show by now. I meant to have my book published by now. If my dreams and goals were a Western, the bank roll is in the bandits hands, the damsel is tied to the tracks, and I’m trapped in a well.
Since I was 22, I wrote a set of songs, recorded them, passed them around on tapes (90's) or discs (00's) or bandcamp (10's), played them live. Twenty or so years of that and I wrote a book, I released it. My plan was that I’d sell 750 copies. I’ve stalled hard at 43 units. I’ve ran ads. I’ve Instagrammed. I need to run better ads. I need to sign up for Goodreads. I need to this. I need to that. I don’t want to add failed novelist to my failed songwriter resume.
And so right before the trip I started thinking, “Well, let’s type up that second novel. Let’s work on that third one.” You know, the more times you throw a rock your bound to kill a bird. If I hold my face this way, then I’ll crack the code, I’ll have the fame, the name, the validation. My real life will finally start. Then I’ll feel ok. I’ll feel settled. I’ll have meaning. I’ll have joy. Happiness. It keeps not happening. I’m not in the game. It’s like I’m invisible. No matter what I do. I’m invisible.
They don’t make a-lot of memoirs by people who failed do they? I’m sure there are better example but I always think of Tim Tebow. I met Tim once, briefly. He out heroed me. We were getting introduced and he stopped to get the door for a lady bogged down with boxes. That sort of thing is my crack cocaine. My boss had a meeting with him that day. Her usual “Big Meeting” outfit was a houndstooth dress. I told her about Bear Bryant and the SEC. She decided on another outfit. Tim talked to a group of us that day. I guess this was post Broncos but I alway think of him. He really wanted to be an NFL Quarterback and it didn’t work out. His talk was essentially about your dreams not working out and how you overcome that. I wonder if it feels the same to him chatting on the SEC network every Saturday as it does for me looking at the new release racks at the record store or the bookstore?
How do you find meaning and happiness when your dreams your goals and as our culture says, "the reason you were born" doesn’t happen? I’ve decided it’s about something else. It’s about finding meaning, less about your dreams not coming true. Because your dreams can come true but you still have to find meaning. I’m going to write a post on him later but Sean Brock on Chef's Table comes to mind. God Bless that dude and the last few years he's had. Because the other side of it is Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.
What about people that say, “God blessed you with these talents for a reason.” That sure is sweet. I don’t think God cares about our talents or what we are good at or enjoy doing. God wants us to be good at worshiping him. What does God think? Well, I think he thinks, Adam would be happy if he’d focus on important stuff like feeding the homeless. If he’d stop focusing on stupid stuff Adam would find peace. But I can’t seem to stop focusing on stupid stuff. Like feeling like my art meant something. I need to stop going to the next thing and work on this. I told my friend Rob I’ve got a plan for the worst Christian blog ever.
Maybe we watch Inside Out 30 times and blog about that? Whatever we do, we don't type up our second novel. We don't write and record a record in Garage Band. We don't beat our head against the same wall again. We pick a wall that if I beat my head against it I might be better off. Not saving rock n roll. Not saving southern crime. Just saving myself. That's all it's come down to?
Anytime someone says “Self Care” I chuckle like Beavis. Also, I need to stop thinking RIGHT NOW that I’ll start blogging about finding joy AND THEN I’ll become a famous writer and things will take off and I’ll finance my labour of love last record with horns, background singing girls, and strings and I’ll release it to breathless reviews in a stunning and revelatory debut on the national scene. TED Talks, Vanity Fair, Netflix show option for my novel. Yes. Finally my life starts. This how my brain works. Always. Every time. So yes, the worst Christian blog ever.
See you soon. -A