Songwriting Challenge Week 4

I just finished reading Anthony Kiedis’s autobiography ‘Scar Tissue’. I have ‘a thing’ about biographies, especially if they’re of musicians and strangely almost more so if they’ve had fucked up lives. A kind of voyeuristic curiosity perhaps?

I digress.

Being an addict he talks a lot about the 12-Step recovery program, and as I was reading the end of the book, it occurred to me that I need to start doing morning pages again.

He was talking about with 12 step how you can’t do 7/10 of the work and expect to get 7/10 results. You have to be 100% committed. This rang a bell because with the artist’s way, I can see it as highly analogous to the 12 step model (in as much as I know about it) – it is a 12 week course covering 12 different stages of ‘artistic recovery’. To me it has always been about furthering my creativity, refining it, maximising it, purifying it even.

In many ways this challenge I’m doing now is a continuation in this spirit. I’m at my happiest when I am engaged with something, challenged and growing. I don’t like it too easy – does anyone really?

I’ve not done the pages too often recently. I do still do them once or even twice a week as a cleansing ritual to de-clutteringmy mind, but I’ve not been as engaged with it. When it came to this challenge, I had this notion about 2 weeks in, that every 4 weeks I would give myself a check-in to look at which behaviours, rituals techniques were being effective for me and my creativity, and which ones weren’t.

So when I got round to it, I was reminded of meditating and the realisation I had to use writing pages everyday. It got me that writing everyday had something going for it, and in fact one of the songs I finished during this challenge so far was born out of the song pages period a while back. I realised a way forward that I will be trying.

Each day, upon rising, after washing and eating, I will sit and do morning pages do a 5 min writing warm up (thanks to Jon Sands and Ken Arkind, whose recent London poetry workshop I got this, and much, much more from) followed by at least one page worth of lyric writing.

Some weeks will go easily, but this doesn’t mean I get to slack off and take the rest of the week off when the song is done because some other weeks will be very hard indeed. I have to fill the page with words no matter what, regardless of whether I’ve finished a song that week or not. This will be a way of levelling them out hopefully and trying to give myself some lee-way.

There is a possibility in all this that these rituals are all nothing, or are a placebo to get me to write or trick myself into thinking I can. It might be the case that it’s never up to us and sometimes no matter where we plant seeds it just won’t rain.

But I’m ok with a placebo if the patient gets better.

Regarding the songwriting (which is, like, supposed to be the point of all this…) I did not get the song finished.

I picked a rock song I had most of the musical structure for and some vague idea of what the lyrics were about and spent ages toying with it, digging into the lyrical possibilities, throwing it into situations that demanded a response etc.

I finally found a way of looking at the song and its intention that was useful to me. When I think of a song I have, there is usually an overriding image in my head. I’ve heard Bob Dylan discuss this too.


“These aren’t contrived images. These are images which are just in there and have got to come out. You know, if it’s in there it’s got to come out.” – Bob Dylan

In my head, when I thought of this song I was playing, it was either in a small dimly lit room with the two protagonists talking to each other, or the image was live at a show, and an audience. Not a band looking at or playing to an audience, just the audience itself.

It took me the better part of a week to realize that I was supposed to be writing something that an audience could put themselves IN, rather than something to sing TO them.

It’s still foggy. I will have to revisit it again. When I have some coins to put in the jukebox instead of just tapping the screen.

I was talking to someone about this challenge I’ve given myself and was told “Shouldn’t force art. It’ll show through if you do”. I agree entirely, which is why I haven’t finished a song this week.

What I’m trying to figure out with this is whether I can prompt the parts that make the work flow, and create ways of allowing creativity to flow better. I have no intention of forcing anything. My job is to show up and give as much as I can to get the song done.

Sometimes that isn’t enough to get it done quickly.

I’m okay with that.

I’ll find a way to make up for it.




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