The Muse Loves the Scent of Obsession
||The Channeling (Ways to reach your Muse)
By Shaman Sean
© 1999-2001 Shaman Sean. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.
When contemplating writers block, sometimes we are avoiding what we really want to talk about. Either someone's comment got to us about a particular topic, and now we are afraid to write about it. Or you may also think that no one will connect with the lyrics.
There are a great many songs out there which I have connected with and found meaning. When I find out from VH-1, what the artist actually was thinking; it usually has nothing to do with my connection. And there's the talent. They write from their heart, but they write in a way that allows me to connect to the song matter. In short: you should never fear writing about anything.
For a time in my life, I practiced stage magic. Much of what makes stage magic work is the art of misdirection. Misdirection is when you do something blatantly right in front of a person, yet you grab their attention with something else. By doing so, a miraculous event occurs for them. Sometimes songwriting should be approached that way. You can discuss a topic, but use your talent to write songs that resonate with people. Of course review of the material should come later (i.e. song form etc.)
Review in fact should be nowhere when you are creating. When you're creating, you should be conscious of getting as much out as you can without judgement. The key, in fact, is being able to write without judgement, then edit later after its all out. Write more then you need while you are "on the jazz"; edit later. Writing is about honesty??¦.but I will write more about that later. For now I would like to give you something to try that might relieve you and call the muse back if she hasn't come home lately.
Obsessions dominate our mind. They may change from time to time. Or they may be the same but morph over time. I don't mean psychotic obsessions, but obsession of your thoughts. What obsesses you? Something does. What is it? What are your obsessions? Many writers avoid these obsessions (sometimes without even knowing). They may be sick of hearing them. Or they may think that people are sick of hearing them. But in the end, the writer spends more time and energy trying to avoid their obsessions, but getting no results in writing by avoiding. The problem is that they're being dishonest with themselves, and the muse can only use truth.
What you should do is write down what you think your obsessions are as a writing exercise. Make a list of them. Then pick one that resonates with you at that moment. Get out a new sheet of paper and start writing why you think that it is an obsession to you. Where did it come from? Was there anyone involved? If so what was the situation? Do other people appear to have this obsession or just you? Why?
Write as much as you can on the topic, from as many angles as you can. Be as detailed as possible. Especially include the unique details that come only from your experience. When you are done (15 min). You may find that you are very, very inspired to write a song. In fact, you may think of a song before you finish the exercise! (If so, you may want to stop the exercise and begin the song!) If that obsession doesn't inspire you in that moment, then pick the next one on the list. Try it!
In light of that: sometimes as songwriters, we are more vocal before we grab the pen. IF you haven't tried this yet; while you're in the car (or house) alone, I want you to try something. Try expressing one of these obsessions in song. Whatever you do, just sing the words. If your cleaning or something, just start singing about one of those obsessions. See the person you are communicating to and start singing. Pretend for a moment that your life is an opera. I know this sounds funny, but its something that I came up with that works very well in training someone to improv better on stage, but it also works to free you up.
I also have a good companion exercise that is similar. I take what I call a riff tape (or progression tape) of something I'm working on without lyrics. I will take it in the car on the way to work (and on the way home) and do this exercise. Don't worry about writing down what your singing (unless what you've just sang is good enough to stop your flow and write down the line!) But in general, I figure, if the lyric is good enough to remember during this exercise, then I will do it again. I made this exercise in order that I may get comfortable enough with the progression that I could sing to it freely. The lyrics that come up again and again, I put in the final.
Usually these exercises won't write the whole song for you, but it will attract the muse. You might get a verse or chorus out of it, but the most important thing is that it gets you expressing honestly about things that you think about (ie your life). And you may also clean the slate of your mind by allowing yourself to first write what's on your mind. Obsession will make the muse crazy for you. Good luck,??¦.remember your manners.
*Note:Natalie Goldberg - Writing Down the Bones is an excellent book! She has a very useful approach to establishing good writing habits. It doesn't deal with songwriting per-ce, but it will help you establish good habits expressing yourself through writing; which in turn, will help you write lyrics. The Zen is a bit thick at times, but her exercises are quite useful.
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