Controversial, I know. But bear with me to read this – it will at least fill another 5 minutes worth of excuses for procrastinating from the very writing you ‘should be doing right now,’ (songwriters I’m looking at you) – whether you agree with me or not.
The idea of this occurred to me on a train, whilst I was debating song releases and song production and the general nature of songs themselves. I’d recently written a track – 6am if you are familiar with my music – that I was listening back to. The opening line came to me in the very moment it was written about, like many initial ideas for songs do.
He drops me off at some train station at 6am
I don’t think there’s many benefits to being his friend
I tapped this into my phone in the spirit of making the best of a bad situation, stood on a village train station platform in the pitch black, alone and slightly frightened that I was about to be murdered so would never make it home to actually put it to some chords and finish the song.
I wasn’t looking to write a song in that situation, but to my delight, rather than a murderer, the song wandered over and introduced itself to me in the dark early hours of the morning.
A guest lecturer came into my university a couple of years ago. He’d spoken to hundreds of the greats in order to write a book about the process of songwriting. He mentioned in passing that someone had once said to him that ‘the song just came to them. It wasn’t them creating it, it was given, almost as if by divine intervention.’
‘I always think that. Someone else thinks that too.’ Ran through my mind, shortly followed by – ‘I hate myself for thinking such pretentious things,’ and, ‘I must be crazy.’
But then, to my surprise, a ripple fans around the room. The comment sparked a conversation in which many, many of my creative peers slowly came forward to confess the same. A gift, everyone agreed. A song was a gift. Someone had voiced something I’d always kind of known but never let myself believe to be true.
The bulk of many of the best songs are written in approx 15-20 minutes. Ask any songwriter. Often they come at night, when you’re about to sleep and your heart grasps the moment your mind is shutting off the filter of self-consciousness to speak the truth to you. I’ve scrawled song ideas in nightclub bathrooms, waiting rooms, on public transport, clothes shops, different countries, other’s people’s beds.
Sometimes an urge comes to me to write. I pick up a guitar, I sit down at the keys, I’m given the song. I feel it brewing in my gut for a couple days. Something stirs me, moves me, changes me, inspires me, makes me feel so alive and I know it’s going to lead to an outlet of expression that I can’t wait to look down at and think ‘where did that come from?!’
A song will come when it needs to be written, like a butterfly will land on your shoulder when it desires, or love will find you when you stop looking.
Songs aren’t things to be churned out, brain wracked, stacked up, made up, just coz you fancy it. Songs are gifts. Your life is the ingredients and at some point the oven will ding and your cake (metaphor for your song) will be baked, beautiful and warm and waiting to be iced.
I said it – there’s no such thing as writer’s block. I used to moan about ‘writer’s block.’ I never let myself even think it now and my attitude to and relationship with songwriting is stronger than ever.
Next time you’re sat in your room, and you know you’re struggling, trying to write the next big hit because you ‘want to write a song’ whether it be for cash, something to do, or simply the feeling of being productive – just put down the bloody instrument. Get on with life. Trust me. Inspiration will find you when you least expect it.
Creating at isn’t about wanting to create, it’s about needing to.