I started this blog and then couldn’t finish cuz I was glued to the news. I THINK it was real news. Some of us aren’t sure of what’s real and what’s fake anymore. Facebook friends have urged me to keep doing what I’m doing. No matter what. So…with that…
Sometimes I’m asked how long it takes to write a great song. There’s no answer. How long does it take to fall in love? Sometimes a minute. Sometimes it's a slow burn. Sometimes it happens the second you meet someone but you don’t realize it until months later. There’s no right answer. Stop asking that question. Seriously.
Guy (Roche) and I started writing “Almost Doesn’t Count,” and then put it on the back burner only to resuscitate it months later when we were clear about how it should unfold.
A song embryo has a mind of its own and reveals itself at it’s own pace.
Recently, I stumbled upon Graham English’s book, Speed Songwriting: HOW TO WRITE YOUR NEXT SONG IN 7 FAST & EASY STEPS. (And a) CHEAT SHEET TO WRITE BETTER SONGS FASTER. (All caps). Really? I didn't have to work at it for all these years? I don’t want to be judgy, but cheat sheet? Is there really a short cut to soulful? To a random irresistible hook?
There are books I’ve found helpful though. Writing on Both Sides of the Brain taught me how to embrace stream of consciousness before thinking about editing and structure…to turn off my computer screen and just tap…to get to the truth before I try to make art. We’re a very self critical bunch and the cop inside doesn’t do us any good if he’s/she’s unleashed before we’re ready for order.
I guess there are algorithms we can follow and chord progressions we can swear by, which brings to mind that very entertaining Axis of Awesome video that demonstrates how so many hits were written around the same 4 chords: I V vi IV. But tell me the truth…do you believe your favorite song in the world was written with an algorithm at its core? “God Only Knows”? nope “I Hope you Dance”? neh. “Across the Universe”? Duh.
That said, those 4 chords are on a Post It on the front of my Steinway upright. I’m sorry. I consider them. I ponder them. I play with them. But I don’t bow to their power. They are quite tasty, I must admit, but they are not my bitch.
And speaking of Bitch…Meredith and I wrote that one in about an hour. We did. The inspiration was acute and intense. But I don’t think the fact that it happened so quickly is why it did well.
Also? I believe in writers block. It’s a necessary evil. It creates the tension that makes way for magic.
When my hubster scores a film there’s always a point at which he’s miserably stuck. He’ll pace the bedroom and swear he’s never going to be able to write something that lives up to the scene. When we first met I’d commiserate with him. Talk him through it. Now I chuckle under the comforter. I know it’s part of his process. He always gets it in the morning.
And what of rhyming Apps and cliche software? I’ve been a songwriter for over 30 years. My brain is a living breathing rhyming dictionary. Then again, what’s the harm now and then in a little songwriting viagra? Sometimes (this is embarrassing), I find myself checking B-Rhymes to see what rhymes with “do.” omg. I kid you not. This should be a clear indicator that I’m not divinely engaged. Cuz when I am, the truth is unstoppable, rhymes and soundalikes line up spontaneously and make for un-calculated cadence.
So take your time. Take an hour. Take a year. Don’t dignify writer's block with panic. There are no rules.
I hope this was a good respite from the news. Real or fake.
I miss George Bush.
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