Songwriting

One Other Person

A lot of people are wonder what they can do.  Consider this story a parable. 

Some years ago, I started a songwriting group. I knew I wanted to write songs consistently. I’d also learned I don’t write songs consistently on my own. So I put myself on the hook.  

I told a person in my songwriting class I was starting a song group. Six months later, that person asked me how the group was going. “It not,” I admitted.  Then said; “Let’s start it together.” 

On a Sunday afternoon in early December the group began.  At first it was just me and John in my living room. Then people were showing up to the group every Sunday. Over the next two to three years the group thrived.  Strangers showed up at my door and became compatriots, then friends. Twenty years later they’re some of the dearest friends I have. I write a lot of songs—though still pretty exclusively only when I’m accountable to other songwriters to do it. I consistently make myself accountable.  

If you are looking for a way to take action, there’s no better way I can think of than to speak with one other person you know is interested in the same thing. Then, together, make a commitment to that action. Then show up.  And invite some more people. And continue showing up. To create change start with one other person.  

Consider these words from Bob Franke: 

Out of any dozen people committed enough to get together weekly and share and critique each other’s new work (that’s writing a song a week), within nine months’ gestation you will get:

12 much-improved songwriters and much matured human beings;
5 or 6 real resources to their local musical community, and
2 or 3 world-class songwriters.
I have seen this come to flower myself more than once.

We may not be able to change the world. But we can have untold impact when we simply reach out one other person and commit to and action. 

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Songwriting

The Plan

Sometimes, (I write a song).

Other times, I write a song!

The plan is for it to be enough either way.

I try to stick to the plan.

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Songwriting

The Necessary Part

Was there Movement today? Lots actually. Specifically the movement of nearly all living room furniture. I had a table in the corner of our apartment I used as a desk. A small bookcase from my sisters childhood bedroom sits atop it with knick-knacks and tokens of import to me. An altar of sorts. There are post cards from a friend. Rocks from various seashores. A copy of Leo Lionni’s Frederick in Greek crowns the structure. It’s my little altar to creativity and the muse.

The desk takes up some fair amount of room in a cramped one bedroom apartment. It’s been a point of contention here and there. (More here than there really, as in; Why is it still here?) But of late Soph has observed, (correctly), that more often than not I belly up to the kitchen table and do my writing and other work there. Today, a bookcase arrived to replace the desk.

I assembled the bookcase. I disassembled the the desk. Then, everything moved. Couched, coffee tables. My altar newly atop the bookcase. The table (née desk) was stowed in a closet. The music stand Soph gave me on my birthday came out. Where a messy desk had been, there is now a couch. Where the couch had been is now a surprisingly comfy little music nook.

I had clung so tightly to my desk. Now I’m rather fond of the nook which is much more inviting and playful. The crux of the whole thing though, was the altar. I realized I could move that, and leave the desk behind. Sometimes I cling onto something I think of as a whole, but the necessary part, or at least the part I really like, is smaller than imagined. I don’t need the whole big thing.



Songwriting

1800 Poems Folded Away in a Drawer

Did you know Emily had only 10 poems published in her lifetime. As it’s told, those published were edited and changed quite a bit. When she died her sister discovered nearly two thousand of Emily’s poems secreted in a drawer. What’s a creative person today to make of that?  (It feels deeply sad).

Today, the world is much different, and much louder. Anyone and everyone can loose their fledgling works into the world to see if they take wing. There’s a risk to sending our poems, our songs, our thoughts out into the flatland of trolls and indifference that is the landscape of the internet. We could be attacked. We could go unnoticed. 

It seems Emily was a bit of both. Yet she persisted.   

Will you ship? Will you persist?  

Here’s a song I wrote back in early February. The caveats are the same as usual, it’s a one take of a freshly written song. Someday it may live a fuller life.

https://youtu.be/WihKK8hKC4g

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Songwriting

The Castle of Discovery

As a five year old, I went to the San Jose Zoo, where there was a Castle. It was roped off but I wandered inside anyway, (only to be dragged out against my will moments later by a cousin).  

Is there anything more fun than discovery and exploration? (Even if it’s clearly off limits, clearly verboten). 

To help keep things fresh, to keep us on the path of discovery here are three questions that might guide us:  What’s new? What’s deeper? What’s next? 

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I was listening to this Studio Time Podcast’s of Charles Wilson, (a touring musician with Justin Timberlake & Rhianna), talked about what discovery meant for him.  You can hear what he said here.

Songwriting

Generous and Generative

Here’s a bit of possibly erroneous etymology: 

Generative speaks to creation to make more of something. What if being generous comes from the same root? What if generosity speaks to the creation of sustenance and opportunity. 

Being generous would be generative. 
Being generative would be generous.  

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Songwriting

Just Start

Years ago, I took my first songwriting class at Cambridge Center for Adult Education. On the last night of the final session I spoke with another student. “I’m going to start a songwriting group,” I said; “we should exchange emails if you’re interested in joining.” That was in May. 

In November I got an email from him. “I’ve been thinking about your songwriting group,” He said.  “How’s it been going?” It wasn’t going. There was no group yet. I took his email as a signal to “just start.” We “just started” the group together, in the living room of my walk up apartment. It’s how I started doing the work of songwriting and bringing communities together which I continue doing to this day, some five to six hundred songs later.

I still try to go it alone. Something in my temperament likes to believe I can do it all by myself. It rarely works. But finding just one other committed person almost always works.

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