Wednesday, August 6, 2008

On Assignment

I’ve always done my best writing when I had a specific assignment – usually one I’ve given myself.

“Write a Billy Joel lyric” (which became “Atlantic City”)

“Write a Paul Simon lyric” (“Somebody’s Son”)

“Write like The Mountain Goats” (“Hesitant Elegy”)

Too often I give myself time to write and….I stare and drink and stare some more. It’s tough enough to try to write when I schedule it rather than when the Muse is tugging my shoulder at an inopportune time. I can write anything I want, but what do I want?

I used to write to prove something to myself. Now that I have the confidence that I can, where do I go?

Recently I was in contact with an A&R rep for an established artist and she was looking for material that was poetic, and universal, but avoided all the stuff about rain, tears, soaring on wings. I knew what she didn’t want, but not what she wanted – relationship songs? Urban or ‘natural world’? Personal or songs about “everybody”?

Not much to go on, but I found I had something to focus on, and wrote three lyrics. One a lost love song using some western imagery; one an urban “bad relationship” song; and one just a meditation on a place, without any individual perspective. (None of these are available on my website currently, sorry). All very “poetic” – not conversational or straightforward.

I don’t know whether came closer to the mark or not, but words came more easily, and I felt over my slump.

Deadlines are good. Specifics are good. Assignments are good.

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