So you wanna write songs....?

March 6, 2017

I have no idea how to work the controls on the blog...yet. But I've been a professional writer for my entire adult life. So for now I'm just gonna concentrate on that.

 

For me, songwriting was the result of pain and isolation. Not trying to be dramatic, but that's the truth. It's really not as bad as you'd think. Basically, I was going through a very tough time in my life and I had just moved to the sticks, a tiny farm way out in the backroads of Southern Illinois. I was there alone, mostly, with no TV or internet. Just my guitar. And a lot of time on my hands.

 

There was also liquor, and other occasional substances.

 

But mostly, pain and alone time.

 

The alone time and lack of diversions and trappings of modern life really quieted my mind. I would sit in a chair for hours, and I do mean hours, and just...think. Or blank out completely. Stare out the window. Many times I would sit down in the after-supper glow of a falling sun and not move until the entire house had darkened around me. Then I'd sit there in the total darkness and stillness.

 

And in this quiet state, I would at some point inevitably reach for my guitar and start fumbling around on it. I'd play old songs I loved, or I'd put together new progressions and melodies. After awhile I would get to where I wasn't thinking about anything at all, but I was still fumbling with the guitar. In retrospect, I was opening up a channel. But I didn't mean to. I didn't know that's what was happening. But that's what happened.

 

And then lightning would strike. I would get a line - a phrase of words and a melody. Something that worked. And I would kind of notice that but not pay much attention. Then a second line...a third. And idea for a chorus. HOLD ON, we've got something here.

 

And a song is born...

 

The first 15 or 20 times this happened I didn't recognize the pattern. The quieting of the mind, the guitar fumbling, the emptying of the mind... I was just fucking around and trying to keep my mind off the pain I felt at the time.

 

I should clarify that I'd written songs all my life, and some are still part of my show today. But those songs came at a rate of about 1 every 7 years. I did not consider myself a songwriter at that point, even though I'd written maybe 10 songs in my life.

 

But now the songs were coming twice a week sometimes. Every time I would get one (I say "get one," because I don't think they come just from me...really) I never knew if it would be the last one I'd ever get. But somehow they kept coming.

 

Then I recognized the pattern, and started trying to take a more journeyman approach to it. I realized you could work at this...it wasn't all about overwhelming inspiration. You could work at putting yourself in the zone. That's where the real skill and professionalism comes in...being able to reliably do that.

 

Can I do that? Sometimes...I'm working on it. I try very hard. It's very important and worthwhile to me.

 

So that's how I got started. More later...

 

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