Scars on Hearts and Guitars

by Marty Dodson
Jun 28, 2016

On September 11th, 2001, I was in our publishing company office writing. I had brought my only quality guitar – a Taylor 310 that sounded AMAZING and that I cared for like one of my children.
I was careful to wipe the strings after each use, to humidify when needed and to protect it from any scratch or dent. It was my “precious” to steal a phrase.

About 30 minutes into our co-write, my publisher called us in his office. When we walked in, we saw a look of horror on his face. He didn’t say anything, he just pointed at the tv. I will never forget the sight of people jumping from the World Trade Center. As smoke billowed into the sky.

We all watched in stunned silence as the buildings fell as if in slow motion. We saw the people running away from the rubble and screaming.

After the buildings fell and the news began to repeat itself over and over, my co-writer and I went back into our writing room. We talked about calling it a day, but he suggested that we write something about what we just saw. So, we started a song called “Nobody Leaves Alive” that talked about the fact that none of us leave here walking. We all get carried away.

About halfway through the song, my co-writer got up to use the restroom. As he walked out, he accidentally kicked his guitar over. The headstock of his guitar hit my guitar squarely on the highly polished, shiny top.

When he picked his guitar up, there was a large gash in the top of my guitar. “Sorry dude” was all he said as he walked out.

I was stunned. I was angry. I wanted him to get it fixed and to pay for it. And then it hit me. “You just watched REAL people jumping hundreds of stories to their death and people being crushed by a monstrous building”. And, I felt ashamed.

I also realized that the scar on my guitar was a metaphor for the scars on my heart.

My first instinct was to get the gash on my guitar fixed so that I didn’t have to remember that horrible day every time I saw it. In the same way, I tried for years to gloss over the scars on my heart.

If I could just fill in all of those gashes and ugly places on my heart, no one would know the pain I have endured or the mistakes I’ve made. People would see my shiny exterior and not ask questions about the hurt I’ve endured. No one would know.

So, that guitar has become my reminder to be real.

Bad stuff happens. Pain hurts. We bleed sometimes. I have come to believe that the scars are the place from which most of my best writing comes. The reality of a life that has included victories and struggles is much more rich and deep than one that has been sunshine and rainbows every day. Filling in the scars and gashes takes away your secret weapon – the part of you that makes you different from the rest of us.

I was lucky enough once to see Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson play at the Bluebird. I was on the front row, close enough to touch them if I didn’t fear a restraining order. So, I took this picture of Willie’s Nelson’s guitar “Trigger”. It has endured much more than my beloved Taylor 310.

Don’t gloss over your scars. Don’t try to hide them. Run your hand over them every now and then to remind yourself that you overcame. You survived what tried to kill you. That’s something to write about.

Write on! MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


Write Better Songs Faster

Songwriting Success is Clay & Marty's 10-day video series that will help you level-up your songs and finish them faster. Enter your email address to get started!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.