RESPECT! Aretha Franklin, the Written Word and the Act of Creation
With songs like 'Respect', 'Think', 'Natural Woman' and 'A Change is Gonna Come' drifting in and out of my mind, and with the world honoring the late, great Aretha Franklin; once again I think of the impact that the written word has on humankind. While it is true that in some cases Aretha was the vehicle of these words and not necessarily the writer, her role in bringing the message of these words to a broad, wide and diverse audience in a meaningful and impactful manner, is no less than social evangelism in a time wherein social media didn't yet exist.
For the writers amongst us, Franklin's achievement and the achievement of her accompanying songwriters represents a challenge, a riddle and a Catch 22 situation all mixed in one. In what way?
A challenge – because who doesn't want to achieve immortality via one's craft? Who doesn't want to be accredited, acknowledged, revered and respected?
A riddle – because how can one possibly achieve greatness or hope to anyway? Moreover, isn't everything already said and done? Can there really be anything new under the sun? Besides which – when you think about it – in this cynical day and age, isn't the concept of greatness redundant, maybe even undesirable?
Catch 22 – because the more you actively seek to pursue greatness, the less you are perceived to deserve it.
But the soul of the artist is configured to create AND share. A writer doesn't write to line her shelves. A painter doesn't paint to fill her studio. A singer doesn't sing for the shower. Creating things means letting them out in the world and setting them free. The act of sharing requires that the creator actively shouts out to the world – "come and see what I have done!" This includes advertising, promoting, and tooting your own horn from every tree-top and every media outlet in order to get the word out – consider this very blog. Don't get me wrong, this is probably the right way to get out there: even if it feels distasteful, unromantic and less than humble.
So what's a writer to do? To hope that one is validated without making any effort? To submit to the times and to sell one's wares unabashedly? My humble advice is simply to carry on doing what you are doing. As Aretha sings:
"Let your mind go, let yourself be free"