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.