Writing is a gift

A while ago, I began writing the word “gift” on the page on which I’m songs. (Or, when forget, midway through). It’s a small reminder. The gift could be for me, or for someone else. I aspire to offer some small joy, insight or surprise in what gets written. I want it to be something a person will find useful and fun. 

Socks are useful, but aren’t fun. Revenge can be fun, (or exhilarating at least), but it’s not useful. A good gift offers some amount of joy. A great gift offers a quality of inevitability and surprise, something wanted but unimagined. 

That’s hard to find of course, but it’s worth seeking out. And aiming for that target I’m likely to stay away gifting socks, revenge, or self-serving cleverness. Writing “gift” aims me toward what I can offer and generosity.

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Letting the Dough Rise

A friend was writing about sourdough bread and creativity.  How setting out the dough to rise reminded them of setting a project aside for a for a bit to let it develop, to let the subconscious work its creative magic. This sparked a few things for me. 

One is that the yeast and sugar will do its thing with the flour in the dough without any intervention on my part. I can trust the process to work. The same is true of creativity. Once I start the process of writing, (assuming I see the process through), I’ll get my loaf of bread.  

Also, it’s no help to the process if I intervene, trying to raise the dough faster. Here I’m thinking about how my ego will try to engineer great writing with thoughts and strategy. Thoughts and strategy aren’t writing. (Sitting down and writing is writing). The process is consistent.  Write a draft, quickly. Then walk away for a while. When I sit down again for draft two, improvements are obvious.  

But finally, and most important, when I decide the dough is no good and throw it out before I’m done, I don’t get any bread.  

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July 21st 2020 Tune for Tuesday

Another quick one take: These days I’m finding my dad float up in my songs a lot. I suppose with last weeks prompt being “Morse Code,” it was nearly inevitable. He was a HAM radio operator. After dinner, if he was home, he was more often than not stationed in his “Ham Shack,” the room at the top of the kitchen stairs. When I grew up some dad’s would have an office (or these days a man cave), filled with the smell of tobacco or smoke. Dad’s room smelled of static and ozone.

Footsteps tap along the road 
Dots & dashes of morse code
Silver quarters in a jar 
Now I’m wondering where you are

Smoke signs burnt into the air 
A last goodbye, well thee fair 
Ash that echoes from afar 
Now I’m wondering where you are 

Our neighbors sleep beneath their stones 
Someday I’ll be one of those 
Driven home in a long black car 
Will I meet you where you are?

A call out on your radio 
To dads we never really know 
Now I’m wondering where you are

Words Imbued with Mission

Some people can say a simple word and color it with weight of untold meaning. Listen to Mary Gauthier talk about a song, and you’ll hear what I mean. A song means everything to Mary. And when I hear her talk about songs and songwriting, hearing the heft in her words, I believe it means everything as well.  

When I talk about songs it’s not the same. Even repeating the same words I can’t get it right; like a second rate comic telling someone else’s joke. A have a theory on how I might get there though. It’s mission.

I’ll probably never imbue the word “song” with the weight and meaning Mary does. But if I I seek out my mission fully, deeply, single-mindedly, I think you might hear me speak about my mission in the same way. Mission is like making a Demi-Glace* A chef starts with a huge stock pot and fills it with bones and marrow, vegetables, water, aromatics. Time and heat will yield about two gallons of exquisite rich reduction from what started as twenty. (Then there’s still more work to do).

A mission is like that too. You start with a whole life full of potential and possibilities that could be your mission. Then you let it simmer and evaporate and concentrate down until everything extraneous is gone and you are left with three or maybe five words which guide you, your mission. Then, like Mary, if your mission is songwriting, when you say the word, anyone can feel the weight of its import. 

*Mary was a chef before she was a songwriter, she uses the Demi-Glace metaphor to talk about honing a song. 

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July 18th Songwriting Saturday!

Here’s this week’s prompt and musical idea! I’ve been busy this week starting to invite people to join the new Discourse forum I’ve been setting up for the people to post and talk about their songs. I’m really excited about it. It’s not perfect yet. (It probably won’t ever be perfect).  But it’s much better than Facebook: searchable, well organized, and just for us. Neat! 

Sign up for weekly emails if you’re interested posting songs there. (I include a link in each email).

The Prompt:

The original image, I couldn’t find an artist attribution, it may be Sydney Bella Sparrow

The Musical Idea: