Ben Folds has a song called “One Down” that I am fully embracing right now. The lyrics are mostly straight forward, if not a little confusing; but with a little background it makes the song that much more fulfilling. When he was a struggling artist, Ben paid the bills by songwriting for others. He ultimately had the rights to record them, but the intent was to crank out songs for others to use. Struggling with a mix of writer’s block and good-old procrastination, he fell so far behind his record company put him on probation – not allowing him to even record his songs until he got that work done. The contract required 4.6 songs … the 0.6 meaning a collaboration song in that mix. While struggling with trying to write something, some people actually told him it maybe better to just do a half-ass job. Lost in the battle over integrity and his desire to pay his bills, he punched one out … and hated it … hated it so bad he never performed it (and said he was unaware anyone ever performed it). But still, he had one down … and 3.6 to go. With that thought in his head, the next song came along whose lyrics include:
I have one I finished yesterday, and I have 3.6 to go.
That’s right, he wrote a song about cranking out music to fulfill a contract.
Without much surprise, that song has become the most popular of all 4.6 … and I have a lot of his albums, and can’t say I don’t remember hearing any of the other 3.6. But I LOVE ‘One Down’. He basically confronts the challenge to keep your integrity or finish your work in the second verse (and sorry for the language, you will notice that for it’s brutishness … its on point):
People tell me; “Ben just make up junk and turn it in.”
But I never was alright with turning in a bunch of shit.
I don’t like wasting time on music that won’t make me proud.
But now I’ve found a reason to sit right down and shit some out.
So, I finished the sixth audit of the Auditpalooza today, and when I walked out of the supplier I knew I had a bunch of reports to work on. Just because you are done with those meetings doesn’t mean you are really done. The reports can be the real killer … you spend hours and hours at a supplier, and now you have to summarize everything without the benefit of actually being there looking at things. What you liked there you may not like at the hotel, what you think is a clear cut finding isn’t a clear cut finding. As much time I have spent auditing is as much time I have spent reporting. So as I got back to the hotel today, with the daunting task of reporting on today, the last audit, I looked at the screen and stared. And waited … and waited
… and nothing.
A great part of ‘One Down’ is the bridge … a sweet sounding, if not immediately out of place, love song. It dances happily about what a fellow would want to do to be romantic and happy with the girl he loves. But as it nears it’s end it .. well … kind a sucks … I mean, it goes:
‘I love you more than any man has loved before, I
Love you more than all the stars up in the sky
I think that we should settle down
And live happily forever …
What do you think of that?
In context, that last bit ‘What do you think of that’ … he’s asking us if we think it’s passable. The fact that it kinda isn’t is the whole point and makes it that much more perfect.
Today, I had one finding. Just one. And I sucked at trying to write it. I mean, I sat there and stared at a blank page for over an hour. I tried to take the requirements and refit it. Tried to take my evidence and replace it. But it Just Wasn’t Gonna Happen. I was hungry, I was tired, I was trying to get something down so that come Monday when I am back in the office I can figure out what the heck happened here today.
My favorite part of the Ben Folds song is the conclusion. How he dealt with the problem. Not just the problem with writing the song, but dealing with the desire to do the right thing. It goes:
I’m really not complaining I realize it’s just a job
And I hate hearing belly-aching rock stars whine and sob
Cause I could be busing tables
I could well be pumpin’ gas
Yeah, but I get paid much finer
For playin’ piano and kissin’ ass
I could have done a lot of things in my life. I could have taken easier routes. I could have made different choices, ended up in different places, and found myself in easier solutions. I am where I am, and I love what I do.
It’s just some days, it’s hard to like what I do.
So, I sat down in front of that computer, looked at that finding, and shit it out.
Truth is, I can redo it, rework it, and rewrite it all come Monday. Most of the report is unfinished, and even if I got it out tonight it wouldn’t be anytime before the weekend before it went out just because … erm … reasons.
That and the chorus of the song says:
One down and three-point-six
Tomorrow, And I’m outta here
Last night in Newark before calling the Auditpalooza over. Or in otherwords … Tomorrow, and I’m outta here.