Tonight I sat down with my laptop and guitar and tried to write a song.
Couldn’t do it.
An angry muse came along and cursed my creativity and sent it slumbering—seems like it’s been a hundred years. The page is still blank, and the guitar sits in its stand.
There’s a craft to songwriting. Keeping the syllable count. Painting the picture. Conveying the emotion. Marrying the right lyrics to the right music. I know all this. I’ve listened. I’ve learned. I know what to do.
But I’m just not able to open the vault to let “it” out. Whatever “it” is.
Sports columnist Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith once said this about writing: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Songwriters? I envy you. You don’t just open a vein. You open your soul.
I’m used to writing about other people. I ask the questions. They tell me the answers. I find their hearts and empty them on the page. Nobody cares what I think. Nobody cares what I feel. It’s somebody else’s story.
And when I write a chapter for my novel? It’s not me who’s doing the talking—it’s my characters.
But songwriters? In three minutes, you reveal something about yourselves through layers of your songs. The song may not be about you—but it’s a part of you.
Ever heard of urban explorers?
Urban explorers explore the off-limit parts of urban areas or industrial sites. Some people call it “building hacking” or “urban caving.” I call it cool. Those in the legal realm generally call it trespassing. Probably not a good idea to go urban exploring without permission.
Some of the coolest of the cool places I’d love to visit are the catacombs and transit tunnels under large cities. A lot of these, however, are blocked off, and people can’t get to them without a risk.
Songwriters are a lot like urban explorers. They venture beneath the surface. They find a way through when the passage is blocked, and they take a risk.
Kudos to you, my incredibly talented songwriting friends.
I think I’ll call it a night and get some sleep. But if you find the right words, wake me up.