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!

Climbing That Slippery Hill

“Where has she been?” I imagine all my imaginary readers thinking. “It’s been nearly a month since the last post! Is Gretchen really gone for good this time?”

Nope. Gretchen’s been taking a class about blogging to try to get comfier with this new (to me) way of relating to people. And, by the way, traveling at the same time. Turns out an iPad is not the easiest tool to use in manipulating the components of a blog…at least for this woman.

So…I find myself mostly frustrated every time I try and fail to post something. Right now I’m using a real, grown-up-sized computer (my dad’s–yup, even at my age my daddy can still come to the rescue) so I’m able to write this. But I’ll be leaving here soon, and right back in the mud of frustration when I try to post again.

So, until I get a teensy bit more time to put my newly-learned posting skills to use before I leave my parents’ place, it may be another couple of weeks before I’m able to check in again.

Here’s a question to chew on until then: Do you like reading about other people’s frustrations with technology? Do you enjoy that sense of misery-loves-company? Or would you rather people like me just shut up if we can’t say anything nice? (Not promising I will if the answer’s yes, you understand…just curious!)