Saturday, June 20, 2009

songwriting journal - impetus & inquiry

I love to hear people’s comments about my writing. Granted, it’s not always a fun or easy moment, depending on the feedback. But when you do creative work, and share it with others, then the energy that comes back from the audience needs to be honored, just as much as the energy that brought about the work in the first place. My favorite moment is always hearing from people about their favorite moment. It lets me see how the work grows and continues to develop, even after its been performed, recorded, packaged. It makes me wonder about the listener, and how this one piece resonates with them in a meaningful way. It spurs me on to create more. Some people have a great curiosity about the creative process behind whatever moment has caught their attention. They ask where an idea came from, how it developed, and if they know me, they might ask does it have to do with this person, or that situation. I understand their curiosity, but I also want my audience to experience the work from wherever they are in the moment taking it in, rather than coloring their experience with an inkling of where I was when the work came about. So, sometimes I want to share, and sometimes not so much.

In some cases, I think my answer to curious questions would really spoil all the fun. There is one song I have recorded that has been called a favorite by some listeners. It’s a song about loss, and seems to connect with people on a variety of levels. I hope no one ever asks me about that one. My process with that song was to entertain myself by playing with one particular word in as many ways as I could. Then, I took an old melody that I wrote about 28 years ago, wrote a bridge to create some variety, and slapped it all together. Now, I’m not saying that I have no personal attachment to the song. I do. In fact, a few of the lines offer a glimpse into a particularly deep break in my heart. But overall, the songwriting process on that particular song was very clinical, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the meaning for a curious listener by getting too specific.

In other cases, I am just beginning to explore a particular theme, and have plenty more to say. I may choose to continue the thread in any number of ways. And finally, sometimes the subject matter of my work is very personal. This is, of course, one of the primary conundrums of doing creative work. On the one hand, the impetus for the work comes from deeply personal experiences; moments of meaning the artist may not yet begin to understand themselves. Then, if the work is meant to be shared, come the moments of others shining light into the dark corners, turning it this way and that, and asking how and why. Now, I do not think of myself as a deeply private person. There are not carefully constructed walls around my heart, secret pathways, or smoke and mirrors. It’s pretty much there, on my sleeve, and comes out in my writing, as I work through different levels of meaning and understanding in my life. So, I’m ok with the personal questions for the most part. And if a question does come too close, I can usually find a way to skirt around it for the moment.

What does concern me sometimes is how people I know and love will receive my work. There are times when an isolated event or particular theme is taken out, examined, spun out in a new direction, expanded, explored, prodded, twisted just to see what will happen, and what can be learned in the process. The resulting words no longer resemble what actually happened, the resulting feelings are amplified and enhanced. The words have taken their own path, and I have just followed along taking notes. So, it’s those kinds of things that can cause me to bite my lip and wonder how it all will go over. What will my husband or kids think? How about extended family, an estranged friend, or, as is often the case, an old boyfriend? In my weaker moments, these worries, combined with the wonder of modern social networking, can leave me circling around like a self-conscious tween at a middle school dance. When I’m feeling more at home in my own skin, I know that my task is to listen to intuition, allow impetus the space to unfurl, and allow inquiry to take care of itself.

For all this, I am thankful.

No comments: