My friend asked; “Where do you come up with this stuff?” She was talking about this stanza from yesterday’s song, which is a metaphor for feeling spent and empty:
Potato skins for breakfast
Dinner of corn cakes
The short answer is I do a word splatter:
Other people call them mind maps, or brainstorm sheets. I like word splatter, because I throw words at the page like spaghetti at a wall. If a word sticks, it’s in the song.
The longer answer?
I write most of my songs these days from prompts. This was yesterday’s:
I start the word splatter with an object and place it in the center of the page. Yesterday I chose the word “gold” which is the most object-y word from the prompt “stories of gold.” I branch off words I associate with “gold” in all directions. Then I branch more words from the associations I make. I set a timer set for ten minutes so I don’t go too long. Sometimes I stop early, but there’s always a decent splatter before I stop.
Next I look up two or three words from the splatter in the dictionary. The dictionary is like a cook book. It tells you what words work well together. Most people know tomatoes and basil dress up pasta well. What words and phrases add depth and flavor to the word “gold?” The dictionary will tell you.
After that I look up rhymes for a word or two on the page. This is creating more options and texture. Even while I’m discovering options can you see how the small decisions made start to guide the song. The words looked up? The rhymes chosen? I don’t think about these choices too much. I trust that my subconscious (or my muse) is doing the heavy lifting and deciding what’ll be fun to play with.
If nothing’s jumping to be written yet, (usually it’s not and it wasn’t yesterday), I write some metaphors from what I’ve drummed up on my word splatter.
Yesterday I got things like:
“The story of potatoes”
“statement of glimmers”
“cold as a fart” –today I realized I’d actually written fort on the splatter, no matter.
I see this as applying heat to things and getting them cooking. After a while though you’ve got to throw some sauce on the noodles. Yesterday I picked up the guitar, settled on some fingerpick-y chords, and started singing from the page.
“High and Dry,” is what I sang first. I decided to go with it: Sure. Why not?
I put down the guitar and went back to the page. At this point I write whatever pops into my head, then look to the word splatter or metaphors if nothings popping.
High & Dry
Safe from a lightning tower
Asking why oh why
Cups and coins
Yellow streaks and yellow hair [thinking Rapunzel in the tower here]
Comb it out into the air
Something bubbles up from someone’s dreams
Determined to make the airy into canvas seams
At the loom with golden woven strings
Golden threads are the strands of everything.
And so forth. . .
Which more or less, brings us back to those potato skins or scraps. I was seeking bland, kind of gross things a person might eat. They were in my word splatter and got stuck on my song’s wall.
The “Final” lyrics
Safe beside a fire
The stories getting old
Cups no coins
Cupboard close to empty
Scrape the fleck from bones
Something bubbles up from someone’s dream
Wants to weave the airy into the blanket’s seams
Upon a loom of golden woven strings
These golden threads are the strands of everything
Potato scraps/skins for breakfast
Dinner of corn cakes
stuck in place
A soup of rock and rubble
garnished with a stony face
stems and wands
Fairies left the fall frost
returning with spring thaw
Burbling fast fortune
Fish and fowl and does