Filled Up With Bad Songs (Or Craft vs Inspiration Revisited)

Songwriting isn’t easy. Who said it should be? One reason to learn the craft is that we are filled with bad, boring and self indulgent songs that we need to force out before the fresh melodies and lyrics can flow.

As Mike Viola sings

Songs, songs, songs, they pour out of me
Not all of them are worth finishing
But you got to finish them to see

Secret Radio

Here’s more wisdom from novelists Ann Patchett and Cheryl Strayed (via Brain Pickings)

Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.

Cheryl Strayed: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration? If a person … picked up the cello for the first time and said, “I’ll be playing in Carnegie Hall next month!” you would pity their delusion, yet beginning fiction writers all across the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker.

Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story.

Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment. The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath.

Ann Patchett: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

More on the craft/inspiration battle from Tom Waits, Chuck Close, Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein

FAWM Showing Up

Mike, Chuck, Harold & Eglon

Songs, songs, songs, they pour out of me
Not all of them are worth finishing
But you got to finish them to see

Mike ViolaSecret Radio from the album Acousto De Perfecto

A great song that really sums up what I’m learning about writing songs.

And visual artist Chuck Close could have been taking about FAWM when he said

Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work

But today (Sunday) I haven’t been ‘showing up’ – I’ve been having a break, going to church, tidying up, watching a couple of Harold Ramis films. And making notes on which songs need work in march. First up – I’m going to try to get the Shrove Tuesday demo up for Pancake Day.

Speaking of mad songs The Eglon Song has been downloaded some 800 times now