​Songwriting – a backstage view (turns out heroes are human...)

Sometimes I imagine that my songwriting heroes are magical.  Their words are brilliantly crafted. Their melodies take me to places I want to go, and they always seem to come up with interesting and moving things to write about.  They shine light onto the ordinary and onto the truth, and they do it in a way that thrills me. And in my imagination, their creativity is something they can readily access.
 
Years ago, I had an unexpected gift of a backstage conversation with Billy Joel.  We talked about songwriting.  I remember thinking how amazing it was that I was having a chance to have a private conversation with him, so I just went for it.  I told him about my struggle to access my songs, and I remember being shocked at how much he could relate to what I was saying. It surprised me that someone like him experienced the same struggle.
 
Last night, in the midst of a fabulous concert, Shawn Colvin said the same thing.  Again, in my mind, she had found the vein, the way in, and could tap it, if not at will, then almost at will.  I found out last night that she struggles with it too. I am sorry that she has to wrestle with accessing her songs, but it was a comfort to me.  It made me know that it is normal.  I learned that I am in good company.
 
Shawn is my second to Joni favorite songwriter, and I adore the work she has shared with the world. In fact, I have been so moved by her talent, that it has brought me to tears more than once, because she sets the bar so high. In the liner notes of her album Fat City, she wrote to Joni Mitchell, “me wimp, you master.”  That is how I feel about her.  Last night, her songwriting self became more human to me, and I realized that it is ok to struggle to access my songs.  It is just part of the dance.
 
Songwriting is hard, except for when it’s not.  There is no better feeling to me then when I am in the zone writing, when I have gotten to the place where the general shape of the song is there, and I know what the picture is that I am trying to paint.  I love when it is coming together, and I know it will be a finished song, and I will like it.  I allow those moments, or the absence of those moments, to have great power in my life.  My relationship with songwriting deeply affects my emotions and my thoughts about myself.  I am still learning this dance.
 
What do you dance with?

4 comments

  • Bryan Abes

    Bryan Abes Kennett square, PA

    Hey Denise! Congratulations on making it into round two of the songwriting contest! I'm sorry to hear about your crummy open mic night. Anyone who doesn't appreciate your music is just a low, impossible to please person. As for what I dance with, that would be writing creatively and complex like you do in your stories. I have always struggled with the dance of using creative metaphors and similies, and stuff. I've been trying to strengthen that skill my entire school life. Best of luck in your song writing. -Bryan

    Hey Denise!
    Congratulations on making it into round two of the songwriting contest! I'm sorry to hear about your crummy open mic night. Anyone who doesn't appreciate your music is just a low, impossible to please person. As for what I dance with, that would be writing creatively and complex like you do in your stories. I have always struggled with the dance of using creative metaphors and similies, and stuff. I've been trying to strengthen that skill my entire school life. Best of luck in your song writing.
    -Bryan

  • Denise Moser

    Denise Moser

    Hey Bryan, Thank you for coming to my defense. That was sweet. I know that everyone won't like my music and that is ok. I remember the first time someone told me that they hated Joni Mitchell's music. It felt like an open window. It showed me that music is subjective. To me, she is a miracle of songwriting, and to that person, she was too wordy and didn't resonate. My job is to find the people who love what I do, and I am finding them one at a time. The secret to writing is writing. It is good to hear that you are still working at it. You may want to think about coming to my Painting With Words workshop in May. My best to you, Denise

    Hey Bryan,
    Thank you for coming to my defense. That was sweet. I know that everyone won't like my music and that is ok. I remember the first time someone told me that they hated Joni Mitchell's music. It felt like an open window. It showed me that music is subjective. To me, she is a miracle of songwriting, and to that person, she was too wordy and didn't resonate. My job is to find the people who love what I do, and I am finding them one at a time.
    The secret to writing is writing. It is good to hear that you are still working at it. You may want to think about coming to my Painting With Words workshop in May.
    My best to you,
    Denise

  • harry

    harry maine

    ahhhh. songwriting. it is a good example of where my deepest dance lies. Lies, that is appropriate in that it's my thinking i dance with. sometimes lies take over. (ie. i am not good enuf. i can't do it. what if it sucks.) the confident thought is worked for, the negative is as easy as sitting on a couch watching tv. my dance comes when i want to lead but my unkind brain wants me to follow. i am dancing with more skill the more i practice. and like you said, "the secret to writing is writing." thanks for your essay. it has me practicing positive thinking

    ahhhh. songwriting. it is a good example of where my deepest dance lies. Lies, that is appropriate in that it's my thinking i dance with. sometimes lies take over. (ie. i am not good enuf. i can't do it. what if it sucks.) the confident thought is worked for, the negative is as easy as sitting on a couch watching tv. my dance comes when i want to lead but my unkind brain wants me to follow. i am dancing with more skill the more i practice. and like you said, "the secret to writing is writing." thanks for your essay. it has me practicing positive thinking

  • Denise Moser

    Denise Moser

    Hey Harry, You are such a great songwriter... Keep dancing! I understand the lies thing. I dance with that too. Positive thinking and positive action are powerful dance teachers. Sounds like we are both their students. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Hey Harry, You are such a great songwriter... Keep dancing! I understand the lies thing. I dance with that too. Positive thinking and positive action are powerful dance teachers. Sounds like we are both their students. Thanks for joining the conversation.

Add comment