Guest Blog Post, Eileen Cunniffe: Van Morrison and Me

It’s been a while since I ran out and bought a CD on the day it was released. Not because I buy music online and download it onto something that plugs into my ears. I don’t. It’s just that I already have so many CDs that I’m pretty selective about acquiring new ones.

But I’ve been waiting for the new release from Van Morrison for a few months, ever since I heard its title—Born to Sing: No Plan B. Those words got into my head, and got me thinking about the confidence it would take to substitute “write” for “sing” and claim that as my mantra.

Writing always was my Plan A. Anything else I’ve ever done on the way to becoming a writer, I stumbled into more than sought out, thereby proving—if you follow my logic—that I never had a Plan B.

So here I sit, listening to the 10 songs on the new album (his 35th!) for the third time in as many days. “Born to Sing” isn’t even my favorite track. I mean it’s still Van Morrison warbling and doing that thing he does with his saxophone, making me sway and swoon over my keyboard. It’s that idea of “No Plan B” I’m stuck on. I can’t help wondering how long he’s felt that way—since before his first album? Or maybe after his 10th?

“No Plan B means this is not a rehearsal,” Van explains in the liner notes. “That’s the main thing—it’s not a hobby, it’s real, happening now in real time.”

By that definition, I am indeed working my Plan A—in the odd hours outside my day job in a nonprofit arts agency, the one that pays the bills. It’s a job I really like, mind you—in part because it brings me into contact with other people who have given themselves over entirely to their art-making. But I take paid vacations to go away and write. I write on weekends, I write in the evenings, I scribble notes to myself on the train, I squeeze in courses and workshops whenever I can.

I’ve never thought of writing as a hobby. It’s real, all right; it’s one of the real-est parts of me. So what if I was nearly 50 before Plan A kicked in and my writing life began in earnest? There’s no turning back now, I’m certain of that.

And yet, I have my doubts. Would I, if I could, give myself over entirely to my writing? “Passion’s everything/When you were born to sing,” sings Van. Does my passion for writing run that deep, spring from a “sense of absolute conviction” (again, the liner notes)? Or is it fueled by a sense of urgency because I have to fit in around the margins of my other life?

Of course, Van Morrison has been making music forever. He’s allowed to exude utter confidence, and he’s got the resumé to back up his claim that he never had (or needed) a Plan B. And clearly, he doesn’t have to worry about a day job.

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe has been writing for nearly 35 years—but the first 25 were without the benefit of a byline, as a medical writer, corporate communications manager and executive speechwriter. Her work has appeared in journals such as Referential Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, Superstition Review (issue 9), Emrys Journal and Stone Voices.

5 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post, Eileen Cunniffe: Van Morrison and Me

  • November 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm
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    I enjoyed reading your post. I wonder if I could put my entire self to writing. I enjoy writing, but for the past year it has become more of a hobby. Journalism has consumed my life for the past year and a half but I also dont consider journalism my Plan A. I honestly don’t know what my Plan A is, but I definitely still have time to figure it out:)

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  • November 4, 2012 at 10:01 am
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    I feel like writing has always been the way I made sense of the world, so in a way it’s always been my Plan A… but I hesitate to call it anything until I actually DO something. It’s so easy to let writing go by. I spent a whole summer with only a single uninspired draft, I sometimes wonder if the deadlines for my workshops are the only thing that keep my brain in story-writing mode. I love that you are so dedicated and consistent with your writing habit. It’s something I really aspire to.

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  • November 4, 2012 at 10:50 pm
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    Beautiful post, Eileen. Frankly, I’m not sure if writing has always been my Plan A. As a child, I wrote constantly whether it was in my diary or in a different Word document dedicated to my fiction. During that time, I had never considered it as a profession for myself, only a hobby. As I grew up, I still loved to write, but for several years, I was determined to become a nurse. Once I realized that wasn’t what I wanted anymore, I was afraid to admit that I wanted to be a writer and editor, because I knew (and still know) how the people close to me would react. Their comments were very discouraging. However, once I accepted that it’s more important to do what you love, I haven’t lost my passion for writing at all. Someone advised me that writers shouldn’t share the fact that they want to write with anyone unless that person is a writer, too, because no one knows or truly understands this profession unless “they’re in it” themselves. I wish that I could write and publish without having to worry about bills.

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  • November 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm
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    You hit it on the nose about writing and writers. Writing full time invites the manufacture of another life. Without one, the writer would go mad. Be happy that it is so evident that you must write. Then the day job is put into perspective. By the way, nice photo. You have that Morrison look down perfectly.

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  • November 16, 2012 at 6:53 am
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    Spot on! I never feel so real as when dedicated to Plan A.

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