For a little while now, I’ve not been doing much that has made me feel proactive and creative in the Music/Song-writing department. Which, given how I’m always jotting down ideas and improvising tunes etc. may seem a little odd.. Nevertheless – I have felt a little stagnant in terms of composing.
Lyrics have always been a big focus for me, and I love words (hence the blog..!) I have reams of paper with scribbled sentences and half-formed ideas, as well as documents and notes hidden away on computer and phone, but rarely have they felt good enough to present to the world.
I guess part of it was all the stuff that has been going on for the past couple of years that has knocked my confidence a little, and left my lyrics being somewhat self-indulgent and self-pitying – and that’s not what I want to present, or be like.
Recently, I have started an ongoing conversation with a talented gent about lyric-writing and the trials and challenges that it can bring to you. He kindly offered me a couple of books, full of exercises to ‘awake the inner writer’ and successfully write in popular song forms. This ‘learning to write lyrics’ is a strange concept for me, though I am working through the exercises.
I guess its different for different people, but I have been relatively lucky that, in general, lyrics come to me quite easily – I’ve never really thought about it in such a formulaic way. In fact, I guess I romanticise the process a little too much.. The best songs I have ever written have ‘just happened’ out of a moment of creative clarity.
My song ‘Waves’ being the ultimate example:
I still have the ‘rant’ from which these lyrics came – a purging of everything I felt at the time, that through a little tweaking became the lyric you hear above.
I think that’s what writing is for me – a way of getting everything out.
A couple of days ago, stuck at home due to a failing voice, I decided to go through my computer, and subsequently my phone and many (many) notebooks, to see what I have been writing about over the past few years, and see if there’s anything I over-looked that might be able to be reworked.
It’s certainly eye-opening. I have so many different styles of writing: poems and songs with standard rhyme and meter, non-rhyming stanzas, prose/rants, singular lines or the odd couplet, I even have some pieces that I think could only be really described as ‘spoken word/beat poetry’. Most of it is not good enough to publish – at least, not in it’s current form, (in fact, a lot of it is highly embarrassing, and leads me to marvel ‘did I really think THAT’..?!) but there is (I think) some potential there.
It reminds me of a Ira Glass quote:
I’m still in the first phase, I think.. But as the man says, it’s about doing more work – keeping going to fight through that phase and to a point where you’re happy with what you’re writing.
And so, by working through the books I have borrowed, and trying to not be quite so hard on myself if I don’t like what I have created, I am going to attempt to create more. Maybe even put some of the things I have written up here on this space of mine.. Not just the silly ones like ‘The Ballad of The Orange Smartie’ that I write in a short time on a whim, but other ones too.. Maybe.. If I can pluck up the courage needed..
In that vein, I will sign off with this re-discovered and unfinished prose, or ‘rant’ if you will, from a couple of years ago. It’s very rough and the punctuation etc. will leave a lot to be desired. But, before abandoned, the intention will have been to take lines from it to construct a song – the same way ‘Waves’ was developed.
Anyway, I hope if you read to the end, you will be kind.
Flame ( – unfinished)
Dusk descends. The air chills, and the evening wraps us in a blanket of calm and serenity.
A lone star emerges above, tentatively showing it’s glittering to the night’s dark sky until it shines, showing it’s full potential.
Around the flames we gather. Trusting the warmth and steady burning, as we gaze up to the northern star. And with the star, we begin conversations, stories, and the talk of the journey to come.
Creativity blossoms in this calm, comforting evening. As travellers, we begin to trust in one another, and in the star. The journey becomes full of limitless possibilities, and unending exploration as the night draws on.
But the flame becomes erratic, and the fire begins to flicker; losing heat, and the star and her companions are unsure whether the flame will last through until dawn.
The northern star will lead you for as long as you want to follow it. Through the day our stories will unfold, our paces will quicken, and our strides will lengthen. We will soon break into a run, and the star will burn stronger and brighter and will not falter. Determined through the darker times, and steadfast through the light – the star is a constant, and will travel with us.
But the flame is not, and can not.
The same fire can not join us on the journey. New camps must be set up and new conversations around new rings of stones must be spoken. The fire served the first camp well, the first chapter of the story, the first leg of the journey. We pitched our tents around this flame, and the necessity of warmth kept it burning through the night in spite of it’s faltering. Optimism kept us going, feeding the flame with talk of our journey through ‘til morning.
But the time has come to move on, and set up a new camp, around a new fire. We must follow the light of the star and trust the journey it’s taking us on. And we must leave the flame.
Copyright, Tessa Smith. 2009.