I Shall Be Telling This With A Sigh

Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken is familiar to many of us. While I’ve mused over the meaning of this poem elsewhere, today I want to really focus on the part that stays with me. Specifically the last stanza.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What interests me here isn’t the final line, not even the final three lines, but rather the first two. Frost will share his adventures with someone, he is so matter-of-fact on this point, there’s no doubt in his mind. Perhaps he did this conversationally, certainly he uses a poetic form to share it with his readers. He has such a profound sense of audience.

People need people. Artists need an audience. Sometimes even the whispered possibility of an audience. It is the reason that videos are uploaded to YouTube channels with no subscribers. It is the reason that poetry gets taken from a journal in a bottom drawer and transcribed into blog form. If it’s out there, perhaps someone will find it. Perhaps someone will see it or read it or watch it. Julia Cameron refers to it as being witnessed. If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it does it make a sound; moreover, if nobody notices we were here did we actually exist at all?

It’s the reason too when we don’t have someone to talk to face-to-face we blurt things out online.

I was taken aback by how succinctly a handful of tweets summed up so much of my life, how much they embodied things I hadn’t said or was reluctant to say.

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I became a writer because I was a frustrated musician. And then I became a visual artist because I was a frustrated writer.

I’ve always loved music but even as a seven year old a part of me genuinely thought, “If I’m a rock star maybe people will love me then.”

But I couldn’t play an instrument, or sing. I studied audio engineering and music business management. I figured I’d be a producer.

Somehow on completing uni it became apparent there were no opportunities for me. I came home to live with my parents and get a dayjob.

And I kept that dayjob for about five years until I was so driven by despair (with a broken heart) that I gave it all away.

And that’s basically the John Lacey story in a nutshell.

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Nobody replied, I don’t know if anybody read those tweets. But still I share them there – and here – in the hope that someone bear witness.

4 comments… add one
  • Greg

    Hi John, well said. I just bought a Guitar magazine with a feature on Jeff Daniels, the actor. When he was starting his career he moved to NY and to have something to do between auditions he bought a guitar and instruction book and started learning to play. Now he takes time off from acting to perform with the guitar. Inspirational. (There is a very funny part in the article where he met Eric Clapton.)

  • Yes, the need for an audience is powerful. It’s funny because there’s this shame factor where we talk about artists like they shouldn’t want to share their work, but it’s such a human need! Of course we want to share our work. That’s why we do it! It’s part of being human. There’s a fine line between creating for ourselves (which I think we MUST do in order to create at all) and creating for others (which we have to do if we want an audience). That’s why it’s called art.

  • I feel connected to others through their words and my own. Am still figuring out Twitter because I sense its power in the tweets you quoted. There’s something about that limited number of words that intrigues me…

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