Songwriting Challenge Week 2

(I’ve been behind on the blog front. I’ve just started Week 4. Always running after myself…)

Week 2 did not exactly go to plan, but I embrace that fully. The gods piss on our plans, and that’s when things get interesting.

I had a tough week in terms of the writing. I was really busting on myself to get this song done. There has been a sense of urgency to it that is greater than simply the pressure/excitement/fear of the challenge, because the song I have been working on is a winter song, and this week has made me increasingly aware of how little time there is left on that clock to get it done before the weather, environment etc becomes inconducive to the song. Not that that should stop me.

I also had this idea that I should get the song finished while I am riding this particular state of mind I’ve been in, which I won’t go into, but it relates to the song. Get it done before I change and can’t access that state anymore. I’m not sure that way of thinking is not folly though.

The song started out a little while ago as simple two chords with a little 7th – 6th melody thing going on. It sounded like that period between Christmas and new years eve to me and I had to get it down, or out.

I spent a lot of time working on the song, chipping away at it from as many angles as possible and working on the chords. It has been a big juggling act following one bit of instinct on from another, because as soon as I got a line I would realise that the chords needed to go a bit differently etc. I spent hours playing with it and twisting it around, trying to find where it was.

It’s hard writing this. I haven’t finished the song. The thoughts are disjointed and I’m partly suspicious of writing about the whole process – it can be crippling and disturbing to the flow to do so. I’ve also been reading and listening to a lot of recent Leonard Cohen interviews and he is VERY suspicious and cautious about discussing the so-called mechanics of writing. Doing so can stop you from writing another word ever again…

So like I said, the song isn’t finished yet. It keeps shifting and crawling forwards, saying that it isn’t quite ready. I’ve made peace with that for now I think, just like when I thought that I might not get it finished in time for the week’s deadline. I threw my hands in the air –  you can only work so hard on something without burning yourself out. Falling asleep in a pile of song sheets and a instruments makes me think I’m doing ok-ish at holding up my end.

There have been several points this last week where I have felt like the song has been getting away from me because I had been grabbing for it. But there have also been moments when persistence and sitting with it thinking “what now? Well, I’ll try and write the lyrics from beginning to end. Ok, now what? Sing em along with the chords” and by doing so I realise which bit doesn’t work.

It’s a strange balance this challenge. The goal is to reveal through trial and error, writing, and bringing the songs through the birth canal, which aspects can be prompted (I don’t want to say forced) by being persistent, and which ones are out of your control and should not be forced. I don’t have an answer. Maybe I never will.

But I’m still crawling down the tunnel, and I’m learning something, even if I can’t quite tell you what that is.

Where does this leave me with the challenge?

I’ve had a lot more ideas for other songs to do though so we’ll see how things pan out from here. One thing I’ve realised though is that whatever goals you have, the fact that YOU have them means you can achieve them. You can do what you set out to do, mostly.

That part is not romanticising or dreaming. It’s just the bit they don’t tell you is how long it can take to do these things, or that you will be a changed person by the time you get to that point. That’s what you can’t predict – what it will cost you to do it. It may be more or it may be less than what it would cost you NOT to do it, but either way you pay.

It’s the lessons you learn on the way there, in between the cracks of the places you thought you’d be going to, that you spend some of your life juice being taught, shown and told.

Whether you want to or not.

You can look back over a year and say “well, I’ve done that thing I set out to do, but I didn’t know it would be this time before I’d be able to say that or that I’d be this person because of it”. But that’s how it can happen.

So where does this leave me with the challenge?

It leaves me to keep going. You don’t stay down with the first hurdle, or any of them. First week went like I hoped, second week less so.

Bring on the third.

(Cue rousing, motivational, and heroic strings. Cue our hero riding a pure white steed off into the sunset, mullet blowing freshly in the wind, off to seek new adventure, to right wrongs, and to challenge injustice wherever it may be found…)


6 Responses to “Songwriting Challenge Week 2”

  1. Nice one 🙂

  2. It does make me wanna hear the song…

  3. Not until it’s finished young grasshopper.

    We can have a song-swapping evening when you’re ready to play me some of your own recent offerings…


  4. Vina Green Says:

    “It’s just the bit they don’t tell you is how long it can take to do these things, or that you will be a changed person by the time you get to that point. That’s what you can’t predict – what it will cost you to do it. It may be more or it may be less than what it would cost you NOT to do it, but either way you pay.”

    This is awesomely put, and something that has really hit home to me this week. Either way you pay.

    A heart only wrung out half way doesn’t seem to be enough, for whatever strange demon it is that makes us cook up this stuff. And if you’re going to wring it out half way, you may as well wring it out the whole way, and make it good.


  5. Exactly. You got it. It’s hard to know when you’ve wrung it out all the way though.

  6. Vina Green Says:

    ‘Hard’. Now there’s the understatement of the century.

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