Good Writing is Music for Your Soul

Piano Keys

As a reflective writer, I’m a bit of an open book. (Pun intended.) I want you to see my life, my hopes, fears, victories and defeats. I want you to understand how I think as an author. I just sat down to write this newsletter. Usually, I have a clear theme to write about in mind. Today is different. I decided to just write to music and see where it takes me—and you.

I just turned on Pandora Radio, one of my favorite piano stations. And something strange is happening. As I type this sentence, the piano music in the background is in perfect sync with my fingers as I tap the keyboard. It’s as if I’m playing the piano.

As I play, I look for the audience. Naturally, no one is here. I continue to play. I’m mindful of the melody, the tempo, the coming crescendo, and something else; how good the music sounds even when no one is listening. The music is still moving, still soothing, still full of self-expression, and still a reflection of the artistry of the pianist.

As the song slowly fades away, I’m jarred back to reality. I hear only the quiet tap of my keyboard now. No more melody. I’m not the pianist, I’m a writer. Yet, I learned a subtle lesson. Like pianists, writers not only play a keyboard, we make music—with words. Music for the soul. Music that, we hope, moves you, the reader, with our ideas, our personal experiences, our novels, poetry or podcasts.

Today, I was reminded that music is sweet because of its composition—not because of the size of the audience that hears it. It’s as melodic in the rehearsal room as it is in the concert hall. The same is true for stories. Whether a story is read by the masses, or an audience of one, a moving story is always moving.

I recently reread an old story by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist and bestselling novelist, Anna Quindlen that moved me. It was titled, “On Losing Your Mom.” I’ve been thinking about this because last week was the 55th anniversary of having lost my mom. I’ve never read a more powerful passage that captures how I felt as a young boy.

“There’s just a hole in my heart, and nothing to plug it. The truth is that there is no one, ever, in your life like your mother…Your mother is the mirror, the point from which you always begin…When the English princes, those poor boys, were walking through the streets of London behind their mother’s coffin (Princess Di), the commentators talked about how she had brought emotion and warmth into their lives in a way their father had not, could not…What a father brings, in most cases, is more like a relationship, less like an atmosphere.

“A mother is the bedrock of existence, the foundation of the house. Certainly it is true that my father was nearly as lost without his wife as we were without our mother. The difference is that for the widower there is an antidote called marriage. The motherless are motherless for life.”

Although solemn, this well-crafted prose is like music to me—not that it cheers my heart, but it speaks to it, and touches the deep recesses of my soul. I hear the harmony between the author's life and mine. I feel the connection.

As a writer, I don’t need to speak to the masses. I only need to speak to your soul with a message that resonates, connects, and allows you to remember—and reflect—on what matters most.


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