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Recently, while sitting in a coffee house (of all places), I heard this beautiful, sweet, simple song called “When You’ve Got Trouble.” I loved it immediately, so much that I Googled the lyrics to find out who the artist was. It turned out to be Liz Longley, and I bought Liz’s album “Hot Loose Wire.”

But another song from that album inspired this post: A song called “Unraveling,” about Liz’s experience losing her grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease. The lyrics left tears streaming down my face, but they also made me think about art, all art, and why we create the works we create.

If asked to describe what makes a good work of art—whether song, story, or sculpture—I’d say that good art breaks your heart and then puts it back together, leaving you altered—the same person, but changed, transported, and slightly better than before. In transporting you to some place—a landscape, a story, an image, an emotion, a memory—a work of art reveals some part of the human experience that lives inside of you. As far from navel-gazing as it could be, art connects us to the human experience.

My favorite thing about “Unraveling” and other tunes like it is that, as Liz described it, she wrote this song for herself, about her own experience. But that song ended up touching a lot of people, and she’s not the first artist to say something along these lines. I believe these works touch so many people because they speak to a common pain. Dar Williams’ song “After All” talks about experiencing depression and coming out on the other side a better, stronger person. Her discussion of writing that song echoes Liz’s words about hers.

The human experience has different flavors, but it comes down to love, to family, to memory, to home, to loss, whether those things bring up feelings of pain, grief, joy, or happiness. In every work I create, I hope I give someone out there that experience—of being transported, of being broken or lost, of being made whole.

How would you define art? Does music ever inspire your work? What’s the last song that made you cry?

Below you’ll find this week’s Sunday summary and mash-up of awesomeness, but first, here’s a taste of Liz’s music and that lovely, painful song called “Unraveling”:

Sunday Summary:

After seriously considering plunging into NaNoWriMo next month, I’m leaning toward no. My health still isn’t where it needs to be, and I don’t want to push my body–and my sleep-deprived brain–too hard. Since 2012 is my year of seeking balance, NaNo is going to have to wait.

I went back to “Pierce My Heart” this week, filling in some of Lithe’s backstory. Yes, I realize now that this story really is a novel–hard to believe it started out as a little novelette for Valentine’s Day. But the fact that there are several different plot threads at play–a whodunit suspense, a love story, two complicated character backstories, and a sociopolitical angle–means that to be done well, this one needs to be fleshed out. I’m also working on an outline for my novella “Oak-Bound.”

What are you working on this week?

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness:

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