I was chatting with my Dad about the joy of reading books and discovered we both like to finish every book we start. It’s almost as if we’re in a competition for the position of “Winner of the Most Novels Read Completely Through After Starting Them in the Universe”. Unfortunately, this can turn the pleasant process of reading beneath a soft doona beside a warm fireplace in the middle of a snowy winter into strangulation, like in the Monty Python sketch of Colin ‘Bomber’ Harris vs. Colin ‘Bomber’ Harris where at some point you knock yourself out.
I really don’t know when this determined little beast came to life and insisted I finish every book I started but I can tell you I’ve beaten it on the head with an indelicate brass fitting weighing three times my own body weight. He’s bleeding in the corner but he’s stopped breathing so I think I’ve succeeded.
Songwriting feels a little like this sometimes, like being dragged behind a horse whose only speed is “if you ain’t first, you’re last”. There are songs that can be written in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, a half-hour, two hours etc. Then there are songs which take a couple of months to finish a first draft. The worst part of this is that some of those 5 minute/half-hour songs sound great at the time but on review they don’t feel like the effort that went into them. On the other hand you’ll have a poltergeist of a song, hurling abuse throughout the whole process and at the end, after you’ve added Factor X, you’ve got yourself a tough little Powerpuff Girl.
The problem I have with the process is that if I allow myself to be beaten over the head with the indelicate brass fitting I mentioned earlier, songwriting will become a torturous process. Every time I sit down I’ll feel the bruise well up, the moans and grumbles will stir from my gut and I’ll start throwing a tantrum. As it is, the process isn’t easy, some days I’ll be risking it all down at the trailer park with B-Rabbit. Other days I’ll be strolling along the clouds with the Care Bears. What I won’t be doing is jumping into Sin City putting myself up against every character in the series.
Not every idea is worth pursuing but each idea is worth some light prodding with a stick, a 360 degree walk around and a few clinical tests. I have a fancy recording device called a phone and I let every idea breathe its first breath into the teeny little microphone. Sometimes I also let it breath it’s last breath there too. I used to work like Dr Frankenstein waiting for that perfect storm, desperately working to bring my creation to life. Now, I leave an idea if it just doesn’t stick. I can always review the idea in a years’ time and see if Future Eloise has anything she can add. Otherwise it can sit in an archive of “Stuff I’ve Created Over the Years” and be a happy momento of the tantrum I didn’t have.