i usually fill journals full of things i’d like to write about
they can be things i know i need to vent about, or stories, or an idea that i know i need to write about in order to gain clarity, knowing that songwriting is only cathartic (not healing in and of itself, more on this later…)
anything that wakes me up at night, or compels me to grab my journal
i used to only write longhand
but about 5 years ago i slowwwly started to use my laptop more when writing songs.
and now i split it 50-50 between handwriting (old school!) and typing.
(at first i felt the keys disconnected me from the content, but it has since shifted).
sometimes i have no idea what i want to write about, and i step back and let the music dictate what the story/conversation will be–the music will literally write the words as i come up with melodies.
and sometimes a song starts with one line, or a group of words that feel resonant, and that one line will kickstart the whole song
i find myself using both sides of my brain when i write.
they can help each other. if the right side (the side that has the music dictate the words) has had its’ moment and is taking a break,
i switch to the left side (the more cognitive part of my brain…the one that requires me to think back, and tell the story in a linear way, fill in any of the gaps in the story)
i jump between the music/melody and pin drop silence a lot when i write.
they both help the process along, depending upon each other.
when it is “music writing the words” the melodies will come out at the same time as the words, and it is a very stream of consciousness style.
as though i am having a musical conversation, usually one on one, with the person or persons the song is about.
when it is the story being told from a more detailed place, the words will dictate the melody.
(i am reminded of the line “can blindly continued fear-induced regurgitated life-denying tradition be overcome” in the song “these are the thoughts” on the mtv unplugged record. a daunting line to fit into music, but it worked!)
regardless of which part of the brain (and heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears n fears leads the way, it is usually an intensely focused Short amount of time.
usually a song is written within 20 minutes.
i find that if i need to drag out the process, the process is not fluid enough to be the kind of song i enjoy listening to
i love the combo: effort-full and engaged, but Fast!
i don’t believe in writer’s block.
i simply stop if it’s not coming….seeing it as a sign that i need to distract myself or focus on something else.
usually i need to go get a sandwich or relax with friends and take a break.
100 percent of the time, when i listen to that impulse to take a break, i come back fully inspired.
i also have to make sure i care deeply about the content, or there will not be enough fuel to have the song come through quickly.
in the end, the writing process requires me to be open minded, open hearted, fully engaged and awake, and to take on the role of being the humble scribe…taking dictation, and getting out of the way.
what that means is “no censoring, no editing, until later, if at all.”
i feel blessed that this art moves through me in the way it does
and while i rely on it, i don’t take it for granted
big hug x