Friday, July 18, 2008


I occasionally hang at online forums where songwriting is a topic of discussion, most notably the Just Plain Folks board. It would seem there are as many approaches to writing a song as there are individuals writing them! Still, patterns do emerge.

One aspect that particularly caught my interest -- and this is true in all sorts of writing and especially poetry -- is the balance between concepts and words. Some writers claim to start with a concept and refuse to budge from it, even if interesting words and phrases point them toward some other direction. Stick to it, they say, even if the language with which you end up is somewhat ordinary.

Now I am pretty much on the other side of that idea. Probably 90 per cent of the time, I start with a phrase that interests me and that will in turn lead to other words which, in their turn, tell me what the song (or poem) is about. Naturally, it is necessary to go back and rewrite -- sometimes extensively -- with this approach or it may never make any sense!

Yes, my stuff does make least to me. ;)

I see writing as a journey of discovery. If one writes only about what knows, that preconceived concept, one will never really get anywhere. Perhaps that is just as well if the whole plan is to produce a commercial product. But I like words and I think there are plenty of other folks out there who do, as well, and always have been. Why else would the word play of the great 'golden age' song writers such as Cole Porter have been so popular?

This probably has a bearing on why I am a fairly slow writer. I've never been out to tell a story (for the most part) and every word can be a path to different, unexplored ideas.

And we're not even considering the music side here, and the effect of rhythms, rhymes, repeated words and phrases -- the whole sound aspect. Some other time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been given style and use of words a lot of thought lately. I used to write poetry once so I understand how the process works. I've also read quite a bit of post modern writing with that style's use of words to describe concepts in a less overt way and thus leans more towards the poetic than straight narrative.

I have found myself frustrated with my own writing style as it seems too basic sometimes, and not 'poetic' enough. I've tried to fix that with the use of symbols, which I have a reasonable grasp of, well, it works for me. But my next novel will be more true to novel and not be adapted from a blog novella! My novel has had to be expanded and expanded and then chopped, sort of like sculpting. A frustrating process.