This week on "Celebrity Ghost Stories" (Don't judge unless you've seen it. HIGHLY entertaining!) they featured a country singer I'd never heard of: Jimmy Wayne. He was a struggling singer/songwriter when he witnessed an older man come into the restaurant where he was writing. Jimmy knew the guy was famous because everyone was trying to talk to the man, but he didn't recognize the man and went back to writing.
Jimmy was struggling to get the BEST song out before his publishing company fired him. He wanted it to be perfect. He'd neglected his social life and forced himself to write. (Any creative knows this is exactly the path that leads you nowhere, but we all try it, desperate to keep our jobs and produce our best work yet!)
The older gentleman saw Jimmy working and came up to him at the table and said, "Remember, all it takes is three chords and the truth."
Nah, Jimmy thought. He was special. He wasn't turning in no schlock work. He was going to work harder than all the other songwriters. I won't tell you the ghosty part and ruin the story, but that really spoke to me: THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH.
I've been obsessing about a proposal for a new chick lit. I've written the first chapter -- oh a dozen times or more, and finished the second, but as I start to clean up the second and the proposal, I always go back to that stupid first chapter and obsess. Because once you let go of it, it's out there. Ready for everyone to judge.
Let's face it, I'm not Jane Austen. I'm not even Stephen King. I write chick lit and I'm proud of the chick lit. It's eighteen chapters and the truth. That's it. I'm going to paint that advice on a canvas -- okay maybe not, that might be one more distraction. But isn't that great advice for perfectionists? Three chords and the truth.
Incidentally, Harlan cowrote, "I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline and for the likes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. And best of all? He made a living by keeping it simple and giving the people what they wanted. That's not too shabby of a legacy.