The Writing Room Revisited
We seek silence or solitude,
communal space for collaboration,
a space to share,
a space to be heard,
a space unfilled that wants what we have…
I carve out summer space to write for new projects begun months ago and find the more I work, the more I feel I’m just getting started. Songs begun on parceled scraps of winter nights aren’t really holding up in the light of recent pieces that seem more…sure of themselves. More enduring in their interest to the writer.
(And therein lies a point: if even the writer finds the work dull and does not desire to play it again while it is still in the cradle sucking its thumb, the rest of the world will almost certainly feel the same way.)
With all this in mind, as I ready for camp next week, I re-share this post in hopes that you, too, will grab the handle of the blade and whittle yourself a room for writing.
It’s a bit obvious when the songwriter in this house has stayed away too long from writing, because she starts getting just a LITTLE bit grumpy. A TINY bit irritable. Easily IRKED. Not by political leaders or financial crises or even by semi-big deals like being behind (again) on emails or (chronically) filing paperwork.
It’s much less rational than that. Where there is no solitude, there is much loud exhaling at the very presence of human beings. People and their people-y things, like shoes…hunger…chatter.
It’s not pretty…
So…for the well-being of my family: to writing I return.
Where have all the good ideas gone?
The writing road is often a thrill-ride attempt to grab all those great ideas that hover in cartoon bubbles around your head before they pop.
“Except when it’s not.” (Dr. Seuss)
Sometimes I honestly wonder if maybe I’ve written my last good song, because: Where did all the ideas go?!
They arrive through books, blogs, sermons and (yes) conversations (those people-y things). Soak…write…soak…write…soak…
I’ve been soaking for a while now without the wave rising up. These past couple of weeks, I sense the swell coming but something isn’t quite there. And I’m beginning to think it’s not always about the idea…
What’s the Problem?
Sometimes it’s about trying to write in a way that’s akin to taking a quiet bath in the middle of Times Square. And the billboards and traffic? My own brain.
Maybe we fall into Consciousness and can’t get up? Maybe the noise of a thousand tiny people in our heads telling us how to be and sound and watch out for this and don’t do that gets in the way of us carving out something fresh and true?
I forget to light the candle of Intuition that has always led the way …
Any writer can break down a great song for you and tell you why it works…AFTER it’s written. More often than not, we’re not actually thinking about those things during the process. Occasionally, a listener will point something out that looks like great crafting, and it’s a delight to hear, because I had never consciously worked it out.
We practice, study, listen and pack all the structural tips in the back closet of the brain. But the really natural, poignant writing happens in The Writing Room.
The Writing Room
The Writing Room is not a physical place but a mental Safe Room, where almost everything the writer needs lives. Stacks and drawers of metaphors, images, memories, stories, poetry, vocabulary, rhythm and rhyme line the walls (if you’re messy like me…maybe yours is more orderly).
Self-consciousness is most definitely NOT in the room. Self-consciousness takes up lots of space, distracts from and suffocates art.
On a great day, the process is vertical, spiritual, intuitive. In that space we are free to focus every fiber on serving the song at hand. In that space, every syllable matters, every melodic nuance is measured and shaped, but it happens not in a lab but on a birthing table.
Like any good birthing room, the baby is delivered after hard labor in a safe and relatively serene environment. And she looks a little like her parent and a LOT like a brand new thing that never existed before.