Image by Kelly

Intellectual House o' Pancakes Webdiary

hosted by

2008-03-31 - 11:09 a.m.

This songwriting blog is interesting, and a nice gesture--a tip of the hat to "craft" in the face of commodification. (Although I hate the word "craft," it's on my list of words that make my stomach feel gurgly.)

I've observed only one consistent thread in my own creative process, and that is that I have no set preconditions for songwriting (or other writing for that matter). There is no single setting, or circumstance, or preparation that leads to a productive session.

I have made up songs (and I'm only counting the ones I like, not throwaway stuff) while depressed, happy, sick, healthy, unemployed, sitting in a cubicle, standing at a copy machine, pressured by time constraints ("have to play this song in a show tomorrow, must come up with bridge"), unpressured, drunk, sober, single, married, alone in a room, sitting on a plane with 100 other people, and one time upside-down while dangling off an aircraft carrier.

(Wait, that last one was a dream.)

So if I had to shape some sort of "advice to young writers" out of this, I'd say: don't get hung up on conditions, or feel like you have to be prepared, just let it happen, be ready to work when the song is ready to be worked on, and if you get struck by inspiration, cancel all your other plans, cuz nothing else is as important.

Also: "writer's block" is kind of a myth. You're either writing or not writing. If you're not writing, don't stress out about it, and go do something else creative (draw a picture or make some animal face magnets). Sometimes a song just isn't ready to pop out.

E.g., I was pushing myself to finish a song recently, and it just wasn't happening. It's a song about a kind of person who rubs me the wrong way. Then yesterday, it hit me that the subject of the song didn't really want to be profiled in such a one-dimensional manner, and it was my job to present this person sympathetically, even if it was with a slightly comedic bent. That opened up a whole new door, and the lyrics flowed much easier.

Other tips:

  • Rhyming dictionaries are for lame-asses
  • Playing with a new guitar effect (if you're a guitarist) can sometimes lead to new creative sparks.
  • If all else fails, learn some cover songs. People like those better, anyway.

    thoughts? (12 comments so far)

    previous - next

    blog archive