I often think of my creativity as a relationship. There are ups and downs. There are seasons of my life where we spend every waking moment together, completely infatuated. Then there are times where seeing each other is like trying to plan a trip to Key West in the winter time. If you’re not familiar with this particular experience, the island has a tendency to book out months in advance. Though difficult to sort out the timing, it is still very worthwhile, so I hear!
The same is true of my songwriting. I’ve been writing songs since I was a single digit number. Some people say it came naturally to me. Those same people didn’t see the hours I logged during recess. While other kids were working on being less socially awkward, I was swinging, singing, and making up songs.
At my current age of 28 years old, my creativity and I have been going steady for a while. Though, I’ve had my doubts throughout the years, I always come back to it and have been the better for it.
With every single song on my full-length album, Lavender Sound, I purposefully sat down at my guitar with the intention to write. These songs weren’t inspired by a tap on the shoulder or a sprinkle of fairy dust. At most, I had the urge to write. At the least, I had the intention to. In most cases, I literally had nothing written prior to picking up the guitar and experimenting. Once I found a chord pattern or lyrical idea or melody, I didn’t hesitate. I finished it – an idea I originally heard from John Lennon. He believed in finishing a song in one sitting to maintain the same mentality all the way through. Of course, this doesn’t include the often overlooked value of editing.
Some of my fellow songwriting friends wonder how I manage to visit with the muses so often. In search of a unique trait to explain our differences in volume, they ask me many questions about how I get “inspired”. They want to write a lot, yet they feel uninspired or blocked. Perhaps the word “inspired” is one of the worst words to ever happen to creativity. They usually wear a frustrated expression when I tell them it’s a habit and an intention. They WANT there to be a secret so that either: 1. They are off the hook because I was naturally more advantaged or blessed (which I don’t believe in the slightest) or 2. They can easily create thousands of songs without a second thought utilizing my “secret sauce”.
Neither is true. Just like in a relationship, creativity takes deliberate effort and work.
I do agree that writing comes easier when an idea strikes us like a bolt of lightning from the sky. But if the idea is the lightning, the willingness to sit down at a blank notepad is the cloud. In my experience, 99% of my songs wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t sat down with pen, paper, my guitar, and free time to struggle for an idea.
How do I make it a habit? I write. I write weekly. I write even when I have other stuff to do and could easily weasel out of it. I write even when my mind is screaming how bad I am. My aim is to finish the the song so I ignore my inner critic, for now at least. I may need her later, when I edit, but not now.
I remind myself of this quote by Eric Maisel: “If you wait for a better time to create, better than this very moment, if you wait until you feel settled, divinely inspired, perfectly centered, unburdened of your usual worries, or free of your own skin, forget about it. You will still be waiting tomorrow and the next day, wondering why you never managed to begin.”
So, I begin.
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