Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Over the years I've written some songs. People always ask if I have some formula for writing one. They want to know if the melody comes first or the lyrics. They want to know the creative process and how it all comes together into a song. I think I often get a strange look on my face, dumbfounded and idiot-like, whenever I get asked these questions. For me, there has been no formula.

Sometimes a melody comes in the middle of the night and I have to get out of my nice, warm bed and go play it on the piano. I have a digital recorder by my piano so I can remember what I came up with in the morning. Sometimes I have a line of lyrics that I just can't get out of my head and it becomes something more, like a poem. Sometimes words and melodies are fused together upon conception and cannot be undone. There is no formula. I wonder if other song writers have formulas? Somehow I doubt it.

From the time our little brains started asking "why?" we have been basically asking the formula-type questions. It's in our nature to want to know the order and the structure of things so we know where we fit in all of that. I am no different. I wonder about the strangest things sometimes...why are butterflies called butterflies? (I've never seen a butterfly anywhere near butter.) Why do drive-thru ATM machines have braille on the keypads? (I hope there are no blind drivers out there!!) Why do people get cancer? Why do people have to suffer? Why am I here? Why?


I think we want to know the answers to these questions so we can feel sure of something, so we can somehow have a little less fear. I read somewhere that fear is basically a lack of understanding. I get that. That's why we demand answers and formulas and cures and encyclopedias and security systems and insurance. We want to cover our backs and rest easier at night. There is safety in knowing?

I have become more and more aware lately that there really are no formulas. There are no books by self-help gurus, doctors, scientists, or heads of national security that can and will always get it right. They can't come up with a formula that fits every person everywhere, in every culture or time in history. Life was never meant to be formulaic. It is fluid. It is reliant on things we can't even see or touch like air. There are so many things that just can't be put into a neat and tidy mathematical equation. We don't get a script at birth laying out what our life will look like. We make choices. We become reliant on other people, who have questions too. We create. We learn to trust, even when it doesn't make sense or it's scary. We live courageously without knowing what the next moment will bring.

As a creator of songs, I know the lack of process that goes into creating one and I have never lost a wink of sleep over that. There's definitely something freeing in not having to have it all figured out. A song becomes something as I create. Life becomes something as I truly live it.

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