Friday, August 28, 2009

Mood music

When it comes to songwriting, it's not my policy to wait around until inspiration strikes. Inspiration tends not to show up until I hunker down and work.

Lately, though, I haven't wanted to work on songs unless I'm in just the right mood. Which can mean different things at different times.

Take the last song I wrote. It's full of energy and enthusiasm and rah rah can-do spirit. It is unflaggingly optimistic. And it took forever to write. If I didn't feel all rah rah myself, I didn't believe I could carry it off.

On the other hand, the song I'm writing now is pretty dark and cynical. If I'm even a tiny bit happy, I can't access the emotions I need to work on it. Or, maybe I could if I tried, but I'm generally not that motivated to kill a good mood.

So I wait for darkness and cynicism to hit. The catch is, I usually don't want to do anything creative when I'm down.

It didn't used to be this way. I don't ever remember having to sync with a song's emotions back when I started. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because my early songs mined experiences I'd had years before, and I wasn't as close to them anymore. These days I write about stuff that's relevant to me right now. What's relevant to me right now feels a lot more raw.

I need to get over it. Tonight I was tired and irritated and not inclined to deal with much of anything. All I wanted to do was turn off my brain, hook myself up to my iPod, and listen to somebody else's music. But I didn't. I made myself think about the dark, cynical song. Specifically, I made myself think about the part I was stuck on. The part that made me fear I'd have to scrap the whole thing.

And I did it. I solved the problem.

My mood has miraculously improved.

How about you? Do you have feel a certain way before you jump into something creative? Or do you forge ahead regardless?


Jannie Funster said...

I have this one brilliant melody ( or so I think it's brilliant,) that I've been trying to hammer some rah-rah lyrics into for months. I'm not sure if I should just let it be or keep on pushing. I do feel I need to be "up" to find the right feel of words to make it work. I should probably move on to other songs, that may jog something in me. Or I might just sit with lists of words and try to work and work on it, after all this is a "job," right?

Darker moods have already been mined, only sunshine here for now.

David Powell said...

I have reluctantly concluded that writing professionally means working on your projects regularly, regardless of whether you feel inspired. Inspiration is a bonus (and, in my case, an overrated bonus--I feel like I'm more often dissatisfied with my "inspired" output than with stuff I had to labor through). I would imagine that's true for other creative work, too, though the precise role of inspiration is obviously going to be different for everyone.