Why go out on a limb? ‘Cause that’s where the fruit is.


Come play me, big girl… (courtesy Lisa Hall-Wilson, Flikr)

Not quite two years ago I started taking guitar lessons. Oh, I knew how to play guitar–with spectacular mediocrity. I’d picked up some chords during college like people do, and stuck with the “I just need to know enough to accompany myself singing” line for the next 30 years. Hey, there was always someone else who could cover that tricky B-minor so I could skip it, or play an instrumental if the song needed it.

But when I left teaching for a life of writing and working part-time in a bakery, I ran out of excuses not to learn more. I had time. My kids were in college. What the heck was I afraid of?

Nothing, turns out. I found myself a great teacher named Bill, who tailored his lessons to fit my needs. I started up the trunk of the tree. Steep, yes, and boy did I develop some calluses–but not exactly scary.


Lots of limbs to go out on, right?

After seven or eight months, Bill suggested I try writing a song, as a way to get a feel for how chords go together. I protested, “Me? No way, I’m not one of those people who write SONGS.” Hey, those folks are special, gifted. Definitely not me.

But then Bill left town for a while, and I found myself taking his advice, “noodling” around with chords (one of my favorite guitar words), singing “oooh,” softly to myself. A haunting melody came to me, lots of A-minors and D-minors. A chorus suggested itself to fit the melody. On my long walks, I hashed out lyrics for verses. I was surprised how easily they found me.

When Bill came back, I told him, “Umm…I think I might have written a song.” When I played it for him, my cheeks must’ve been bright red. Didn’t help that the song was called “Passion.” Bill did me the favor of not watching me too closely while I played. But when I finished, he was impressed.

“You really have something here. But I think it needs a bridge.”

So I wrote a bridge. Even stuck in some B-minors to challenge my fingers. When Bill heard the whole thing, he announced he wanted to record it. That recording got sent around to various musical folks on the small island where I live. I heard nice things. The word “legit” especially stood out to me.

My musical Muse? (courtesy Maryann Rizzo, Pinterest)

That must have been what my Muse was waiting for.

I started writing more, and haven’t stopped. It’s been a year, and I now have 16 songs.

Writing those first lyrics and singing ’em for Bill, that was my first slide out on that limb. But that branch got REAL skinny when a promoter on the island got me to sing a bunch of my songs in a concert.

Never sung into a microphone before. Never had folks pay to hear me sing. Never sat out front of a group with the spotlight literally on me.


Good thing I remembered to paint those toenails!

Yup, I’m barefoot–know why? I started sweating so much out of nervousness, I decided to lose the boots at the last minute to give my body some relief. It worked; my barefoot self is much more relaxed. The more I sang, the easier it got. And at the end of the evening, I tasted that sweet, sweet fruit. I still do.

I’ll leave you with a clip of me and Chicken Biscuit (our band) singing my song, “Hard to Let Go”–’cause after all this build-up, you want to hear me sing, right?

But what I want to know is, What’s something that YOU’VE done that seemed incredibly risky, but paid off sweetly? Or, what’s something you wished you could make yourself do, or something you plan to do? What’s stopping you? Let me hear from you!

4 thoughts on “Why go out on a limb? ‘Cause that’s where the fruit is.

  1. Great job, Gretchen! On the posting of pictures and video AND on the singing. I admire you for performing a whole concert. I’ve done one song at a time but performance anxiety nearly killed me. LOL.

  2. Gretchen, I love your music. Your style reminds me of Joni Mitchell. That’s wonderful that you went out on a limb, stepped out of your comfort zone, and look what happened! “Legit,” that’s quite a compliment. So cool how other artists, including Bill, affirmed your talent, so you kept on going and haven’t stopped. Looks like you’re harvesting a whole crop of fruit! LOL!

    I’m gearing up to babysit TWO babies full-time soon. Daughter’s having her second baby beginning of June, a girl. I already care for grandson, now 19 months, and he kicks my butt daily. I can’t count how many times I’ve almost put writing aside until the grandkids are older and I have more time, but I know I’ll never have more time. So I forced myself to go to critique meeting tonight. Am plugging along, juggling my roles as caretaker and author. I love both. Some days I’m a zombie, fighting to stay awake. Sometimes, I’m like Tarzan, hanging from a vine and swinging from limb to limb. It’s a wild ride!

  3. I’ve done something similar. I took up the banjo about a year ago. I’ve wanted to learn how to play the banjo ever since I played the violin back in elementary school and junior high. It has been as exhilarating as it has been humbling. I had no intention of performing when I started but my instructor convinced me otherwise. I will not be changing my name to Earlene Scruggs any time soon, but I’m getting more out of it then I would have ever guessed when I started.

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