It's International Paul McCartney Day™
Well, not really. But I truly believe that should be A Thing. It’s his 77th birthday. Every year I celebrate by listening to him all day long and posting YouTube videos with annoying regularity.
In 2002, I had the chance to go to Ontario on a book tour for my first collection of poems, Nice Day for Murder: Poems for James Cagney. This was back in the day when publishers had money to send you around.
I don’t believe in coincidence; I think the universe is entirely random and because we are pattern-seeking beings, we see links that aren’t there. So I thank whatever confluence of random molecules and scheduling that took place so that I would be in Toronto the weekend Paul McCartney was playing at The Whatever Bank Enormodome.
If you know anything about me, you know that I’ve loved him since I was nine years old. That’s a lotta years ago, now. Forty-five years, to be precise. I’ve never stopped loving him, or listening to him, or feeling uplifted when I hear any song from any era of his long career (except for “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime” and “Ebony and Ivory.” I’d be happy if I never heard those songs again).
Pre-widespread-wifi back in 2002, a friend and I sat at his dial-up computer at the stroke of 10:00am the day the tickets went on sale. Score! Two tickets as far as humanly possible away from the stage. I wasn’t disappointed. That’s what binoculars and jumbotrons are for.
This was the first time I had ever seen him, or had been in the same room with him—if the above mentioned Enormodome can be called a “room”. To say that the concert was transcendent is to commit two vile crimes: bad cliché, and my total inability to ever come up with the right words to describe how that night made me feel.
I’ve seen him twice since, but that first time? Kill me. Kill me again. I could have died happy that night. When I heard him sing “Let Me Roll It” (my favourite song… today), I turned to my friend and said, “this is as close to heaven as I’m ever going to get.” That remains true to this day.
Not long afterward, I started noodling with some poems about him. Now that I considered myself a “real writer”, I thought I could maybe come up with a few poems that could go with something else. I knew by that point that pop culture was my bag, and who’s more pop than Paul?
I told some people about what I was doing. I’d seen a tribute band several years earlier, and the poems were a direct result of my befriending them and seeing Paul in concert. Sometimes the universe hands it to you (randomly) on a silver platter. Not often, but when it happens, it really happens.
The first time I saw Rubber Soul (the tribute band I’m still pals with, even though they’ve long since broken up), I was hit by a cast iron frying pan of an idea. What if a superfan couldn’t tell the difference between the real Paul and the fake one of the tribute band? This book grew from that.
But Kimmy, you’re saying right now. This is an editing blog. You’d be right. If I’d listened to the naysayers and the people who don’t like Paul (they are Legion), and the people who thought that it would be impossible to sustain a book-length collection of poems about an obsessed and unstable Paul McCartney fan, I’d never have written a word.
You know who the loudest naysayer was? Me. Then I decided I had to just get the fuck out of my own way. What did I have to lose? Some writing time? Big deal.
As I grew closer to the band (everyone should have their very own rock band once in their lifetime) and came to know them as people, the book took shape. I’d asked Gary (Paul) to read an early draft as I wanted to make sure he approved. His opinion was the only one that mattered. I knew that the real Paul would never catch wind of this book, so I wasn’t worried about what he might think.
Do you find yourself editing out stuff that you know is great because someone has told you you should? Do you look for approval and permission before you start a writing project? If you answered yes to these questions, I invite you to stop doing that.
A poetry book about a nutcase who eats wax statues of Paul McCartney? I wrote that, and if I’d listened to the voices telling me I shouldn’t write that, this book wouldn’t exist.
No matter how out there your book idea is, write the damn thing. Don’t edit yourself based on what others have told you is acceptable. If it never comes to fruition, so what? You exercised your writing muscles. If it does, pat yourself on the back for staying true to whatever that whackjob idea might have been.