Thursday, March 15, 2012

you're more like a rocksong.

Listening To: Steady as She Goes by The Raconteurs
Made me laugh: "Things Jesus never said: I am giving up chocolate for lent." - Donald Miller

Jack White played in town over the weekend. As expected, tickets to his show sold out in nanoseconds. People were lining up outside the venue at 6 AM Saturday morning to get inside, even though the show didn't start until 8 that night. Rolling Stone and MTV were both in town to cover it. There was such a fun hum of energy surrounding the whole ordeal.

Confession: I did not go.

Somehow I made it through high school in the 90's without becoming a major fan of The White Stripes. I like their music fine. I like Jack and Meg and their weirdly wonderful dynamic. Do you remember how cool Meg looked playing her peppermint drums? (This tribute by Ray Lamontagne still makes my heart swell.) I like Jack and the boys in The Raconteurs. When I hear "Steady as She Goes", I'll always think of muggy summer nights and a sky full of stars. I especially loved the way he sang "Wayfaring Stranger" in Cold Mountain. I like him flirting over a Sloe Gin Fizz with Loretta Lynn. I'm obsessed with the way he sings Dolly Parton's "Jolene."

I like reading about him, too. Some people make my inner journalist salivate and he's one of them. I don't know why he fascinates me. Most musicians are a little bit eccentric, but his quirks seem less put on and more endearing. Genuine, too. Genuine is my favorite quality in anybody - poet, prophet, or rockstar. (Did you know he considered becoming a Catholic priest?)

Mostly though, I love his voice. I love the way his words bend around lyrics. He sounds a little bit boyish and a little bit sexy and a little bit like breaking glass. I like that he's rough with a guitar, not smashing them or breaking them or whatever (does he do that?). But I like that he plays them like he's trying to wring out all the sound.

But I think what I like most about Jack White is best summed up in a tweet I read from the concert. Casey Phillips, a reporter for the Times Free Press, did great live tweets from the show discussing the set list, the crowd reaction, and his Jack White blazer envy (ha :). At one point, he quoted a friend of his who said (I'm paraphrasing):

"Nobody is better at being Jack White than Jack White."

I really, really like that quote.

Because when I say that I love Jack White's voice, I'm not just talking about the singing-voice that shatters and snarls and howls into a microphone. I'm talking about the sound that's so uniquely his, the voice he's crafted over more than a decade of being and becoming Jack White. And now he has a voice you can depend on to be good. He sends out different albums, with different bands, with new songs ... but his heart is still the same; raw and real and strange.

Jack White's wonderful ability to be Jack White also reminded me of this quote, from Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church. (This comes from a longer post called Preach like Joyce/Play like Jimi that I've probably read a thousand times at this point.)

"It's refreshing when you have a conversation with someone who used to want to be what she was never meant to be, but left that illusion behind to become the bonafide best version of herself the world has ever seen." - Steven Furtick

I really, really like that quote too.

When I first read Steven Furtick's post, I remembered a blog I stumbled onto years ago, of a girl who was clearly a fan of Beth Moore because she was trying to blog exactly like her, right down to the terms of endearment Beth uses. My first reaction was: my word, this is obnoxious.

But my very-close second reaction (*clears throat* ... the cool kids would call it a moment of conviction... ) was this: am I not guilty of doing this exact same thing sometimes?

I don't try to write like Beth Moore (even though I adore her writing). But I think all writers have probably done something similar.

Early on when you're writing, it's natural to graft your style to a writer you admire. I think that's true of any artform, regardless of what it is. You learn by imitation. Andy Warhol says all artsy types are just thieving rascals anyway. The imitation thing is natural and necessary; you are still learning. You're smart enough to see that some people are especially great at what they do. Maybe you have a similar rhythm to your writing, or you'd like it to have that same kick. You learn by doing. You imitate the best. You dig in and study what makes their work so great. The danger, of course, comes in continuing to do that forever - trying to write exactly like that person - without ever finding your own voice and style. I think every writer has had to be intentional about pulling away from their influences and figuring out their unique voice.

Writing stuff aside, Jack White and Steven Furtick have me thinking about what all this has to do with living better. And this has been a rather sobering reflection.

(This is the part that's so honest it's darn-near painful to type.)

Instead of taking this unique mix of days I've been given -- matching my gifts and talents and dreams up with my hours and minutes and mysteries -- I've wasted lots of time wishing I could be somebody else. I'm guilty of trying to make my journey look exactly like hers (whoever "she" may be) so I'll have the exact same end result she has. Because "her" life looks seriously perfect. But the end result is never what I thought; because that was never meant to be my story. (And because her life isn't perfect, nobody's life is ... but that's a different topic.)

When I try to be somebody else, the end result is only envy and bitterness that spreads all gangrenous and gross deep down in my heart. So why the heck do I keep doing it? 

I think all the fakery-living has to frustrate God like crazy. He tells us to imitate Jesus when it comes to the way we live; but imitating and idolizing other people is, at best, disastrous. At worst, it's a waste of precious time.

On a recent trip to my well-used private pity-pool, I got a swift kick in the pants in the form of Galatians 6:

Make a careful exploration of who you areand the work you've been givenand sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself. Share all the good things you have and experience.Don't grow fatigued doing good. 

And I had this crazy-scary thought: What if I miss what God is doing in and through and around me because I'm so stupidly consumed with trying to make my life like someone else's?

Might I get even more painfully honest? (I feel like I'm ripping off a band-aid. A very, very big one.)

I sometimes wonder if the blogging atmosphere can be poison to women. Or maybe it can just be poison to this woman, the woman typing this post. I realize it's mostly fun and gives people a sense of community. I've been so encouraged by blogs and I sincerely enjoy writing this one. Thanks to a blog, I learned to make mini apple pies using crescent rolls, Mountain Dew, and sugar. Hallelujah. 

But I wonder if maybe blogging can easily feed into an idealized fantasy of a life that is not legit. 

For example, I know a guy who played World of Warcraft for years. He loved it, but he finally decided to stop playing it. Even though it was fun, and he met some cool people, he felt like he was in a fantasy world too much, thinking about that world more than the world he was actually in, and he felt like he'd kind of barricaded himself from life. I sort of wonder if reading blogs is like that for lots of people. Women especially.

Maybe it started out as fun, as "community," and hopefully it stays that way. But "lifestyle blogs" sometimes have a weird virtual reality vibe about them, don't they? And it's like those little paragraphs, complete with a picture of something baking, or a book contract beside a fresh cup of coffee, or some well-behaved baby wearing BabyGap and baby-size TOMS just start to make you feel like a big load of poo? It's not that you aren't happy for people ... but maybe you're going through such a tough season that you forget everybody's life is hard and you think: why do they get off so easy!? And why does your baked stuff always look like charred bricks? And why are authors always waxing poetic about sitting down with their warm/comforting/precious/glorious coffee and writing something amazing? Is writing really that easy for them?! And maybe your baby won't stop screaming long enough to pose for an artsy Instigram picture and you can't afford to buy TOMS for an infant, dangit!* 

... Maybe comparison isn't something you struggle with as hard as I do. But if you do, then let me give you the same encouragement I've been picking up from the likes of Jack White, Steven Furtick, and the Apostle Paul:

Work on being the absolute best at being yourself. Be your bonafide best, as Furtick would say. You are so much more amazing than you realize. And you have more going for you than you know. And you have a life, and a calling, to live out that will be amazing. And it won't be exactly like anybody else's.

Comparison is the thief of joy. - Theodore Roosevelt 

There's something kind of freeing in knowing we're not called to be the next Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore or JK Rowling or Tina Fey or Dolly Parton or Elaine Lloyd. (That last one is my mom.) (Just tossing out names of women I admire.) God didn't create you (or me) to be them. Those women are already the best at being themselves. I look up to those women. Their success inspires me. I want to learn from them; from their job savvy, from their integrity, and from the way they live. They challenge me to live better and dream bigger and work harder.

But I don't want to settle for living vicariously. That would be a tragic waste of time.

I don't want to spend my life singing coversongs. I want to press my pen to paper. Press my fingers against steel strings. I want to find the song that's mine; even if it takes years. Because I've got a rock anthem in me. And when I finally learn how to play it, it's going to sound a lot like freedom.

* Would like to mention that I don't have a baby, nor do I ever experience baby envy. But I hear from friends who are mamas that, in the wrong frame of mind, blogs make them feel like they're being crappity parents because it's not all magical, precious, or Disney-fied. 


  1. Natalie, YOU are a Rock Star! Great post, as always...and so true

    1. Thank you so much! :) So good to know you can relate!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. There are so many things I want to say in response to this but I don't even know where to begin!

    I've struggled with comparison for as long as I can remember. It's such a nasty habit, but I think I'm slowly working past it. Trying to be like someone else is honestly exhausting, and it never brings anything good. And really, when I'm not busy obsessing over what others think of me, I'm kind of growing to like my quirky self. I like my "unusual" tastes and interests and hobbies.

    Me and a blogging buddy/pen pal were just talking about this the other week. I definitely agree that blogs can be breeding ground for jealousy and discontent. It's so easy to move from "wow, that's cool" to envy. It's so easy to think, I dress like such a dork compared to her. Why can't I afford to travel to Europe like her? How come my crafty ideas are never as awesome and creative as hers? {But I also find myself wondering about what certain bloggers' lives are *really* like. Because they can't be as perfect as they seem.} Sometimes when I get like that, I just have to take a step back away from the blogging community and look at my life and how God has blessed me.

    And this is such a concidence that it's going to sound like I'm making it up. But the "Comparison is the thief of joy" quote has been on my mind a lot lately, and I've actually been spending the morning working on a cross stitch pattern of it. Because I think I need that reminder on my wall. :) And I'm planning a comparison post for my blog, though I may have just said everything in this comment that I was going to say in the post. :) Good grief, sorry for the length of this monster.

    {The part about studying and copying, whether consciously or not, people you admire made me think about Audrey Hepburn's dad in "How to Steal a Million." About copying a painting, he says, "I doubt very much if Van Gogh himself would have gone through so much trouble." And Audrey says, "He didn't have to! He *was* Van Gogh." :) }


    1. You know what's so funny about this is that I can't imagine anybody wearing cuter clothes than you. AND you MAKE them! I bet people get creativity envy over your blog all the time. I'm so there with you though - blogs can be killer. There are times I have to detox for a while and read none of them. I read Mark Batterson's "The Circle Maker" and he talked about how much more productive he was when he fasted from media for a certain period of time. I have a theory that most bloggers probably struggle with comparison. I can't wait to see what you write about it. And I can't wait to see your crossstitch! (I had never heard that quote before - so good!)

  3. I too have had a hard time dealing with comparing myself to others. I look around and see so many cool people who can do awesome things and I think, "wow why can't I do that?" And I guess I need to remember that I can. I see so many girls that waste their time wanting to copy every little thing someone else does and I don't want to be like that. What kind of life is that? It's definitely not what I call a life lived full.
    I know God wants so much more for all of us than that kind of life. Thanks for pointing that out Natalie. Thanks also for being so real. That's why I read your blog because it inspires me to become more of my own person.

    1. I think the copycat stuff is exhausting (and I say this because I've been in seasons where it's pretty much ALL I seemed to be doing). You are so right though - you WILL do so many awesome things. The path to all that won't look like anybody else's, but it will be awesome too. I've been thinking a lot about Psalm 103 - the part that reads, "He satisfies our desires with good things." That has been such a word for me. You are so right - life lived FULL is the goal. Thanks for sharing this comment. It's so sweet to know somebody else deals with all this comparison stuff.

  4. I most for sure get that vibe sometimes (most of the time) from blogs. It seems like everyone else's life is perfect and all I ever blog about is what I watch on TV and other random junk. I don't get tons of comments or have loads of follwers. Blogging is awesome and I love it but I do sometimes feel that it's a lot like high school, and mainly because a lot of it's just in your head.

    1. I love your comment. Especially, "it's a lot like high school." It so is. I've thought before how cliques never, ever go away unless you choose to just ignore them. Your comment reminded me of a convo I had recently. I was talking about Donald Miller's last book, which I loved, but there was one part that always gets to me. In lots of non-fiction (and blogs), people have these big spiritual epiphanies when they're traveling in very exotic places. And my thinking was, "Can you still experience God when you're so broke you can barely afford to put gas in your car?" I think that same idea relates to what you're talking about. It's the whole comparison thing still. It can rattle your brain. But you are right - the popularity part is just in your head.

  5. Oh I just love you for being brave and saying these things. I am constantly reminding myself not to be of those who "compare themselves with themselves and are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV) Both in everyday life and in my writing. It's so easy to fall into discouragement and discontent saying, "If only I could write like that!"

    I love so much that you don't follow the "rules" of blogging. I've read your blog for years, and it has stayed in my reader though many have drifted in and out. You write about so many random things, inviting us into your life and into your heart. And that's what keeps me coming back. The glimpses into your heart that tell me "You are not alone." Thank you for being who you are. You are so appreciated.

    1. Thank you so much. I've never wanted this blog to follow one particular theme. I just want it to be a sweet place to hang out and have some fun discussions. That means so much to me to know you've been reading for so long! Thanks for enduring the crazy. :) I can so relate to the writing stuff too. I'm convinced the comparison never stops on its own. I have to really choose to stop comparing my work, or my sales, or my talent or anything to anybody else. There's nothing good that comes of it. The fact that you're pushing through all that mental turmoil/garbage and writing anyway is so awesome. Thanks for sharing that verse!

  6. I love this post. LOVE this post.

    "It's refreshing when you have a conversation with someone who used to want to be what she was never meant to be, but left that illusion behind to become the bonafide best version of herself the world has ever seen."

    I would love to have that blown up and framed and taking up an entire wall of my office. Comparison is a liar and a destroyer. And the internet is just spreading this plague.

    1. That's my favorite quote on any of his blogs, and he's had some zingers. I have a feeling that's going to be in his new book. So so so good. I need to put that on my mirror. My fear with all the Internet stuff is that it hasn't even hit full-force yet. It's turning into a new celebrity maker. I think the idea is that it inspires women, and maybe it all still does. But it seems to mostly make women feel like crap. Like their lives are pointless if they don't have blogs, babies, and book deals. Which is just ridiculous.

  7. Natalie! This is so wonderful. First, the Jack White references and love. Adore him, adore his new solo stuff too. And you're right that he is amazing at being himself- at least from our point of view. Second, it is so easy to get into the comparison game. I was talking to friends about it the other day because I experience jealousy over people's writing opportunities at times and wanted to get to the root of it. We reasoned that it's the vulnerability we feel when we write, which can make us feel insecure (especially with blogging stats and number of comments), which is like a gateway drug to comparison and envy. But then we talked about how we don't always know what that other person has done to work for the opportunity they've received, nor would we always be willing to do the same ourselves. God blesses us in our own way and at the right time for us. Thirdly, yes, we are called only to be the best version of ourselves. That was a good and timely reminder.

  8. I can totally relate to this...I compare myself to people so often, knowing that I cannot measure up to the standard that I think they have set. I never feel like I am good enough. But I am learning how to get past that :) I really like what you said about finding the song inside of you. That is what I want to do. To find the song that is in me and sing it with everything in me. Thank you. :)

  9. This is a really good post. I adore Meg and Jack's eccentricities so very much. They're the true kinds, the shockers people like Lady Gaga try and fail miserably at imitating. His voice is gorgeous. Gorgeous isn't enough. And I like that you mentioned Ray Lamontagne's Meg White.
    RL is amazing.

    All of this being said, I really appreciate what you said about finding your own true style, and not fashioning yourself to be like someone else. Even though many artists are thieving rascals (even the Bible itself says that there is nothing new under the sun) originality is to be an aim.

    Thank you for the reminder :)

  10. I just used a paragraph of this beautiful post as my facebook status. :) Your blog reads like poetry and I come away feeling so inspired. I have been struggling with this issue a lot lately and I love how this reminded me that I should always try to be me and not someone else's version. Thanks for the pep talks.

  11. Love, love, love this. I want to be exactly like you. ;)

  12. Natalie, I admire your writing style. It feels like reading a letter from a friend. Thanks for taking the time to write the things on your heart.


  13. Okay, I know this is an old post, but i'm commenting anyways :) I totally love Jack White and have never heard a song of his that I didn't like. (My personal faves: "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and "I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends") Anyways, I read your articles in Sisterhood magazine, and reading your blog has inspired me to put my big-girl pants on and bring mine back to life. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Aiden! What a sweet compliment - to know that something I wrote makes somebody else want to write. WOO HOO! :) And I always love hearing from other Sisterhood readers (thanks for letting me know those articles encourage you :). And I agree that Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground is a really, really rad song. Have you heard The Punch Brothers cover it? It's fabulous too. Thanks for stopping by :)