If you write songs, do you consciously try to write songs that are new, different, unusual, distinct from the music that has come before you? Something that will stand out and be noticed because it’s so creative or even weird?
If you do, well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. You might find something that really resonates with you. And I’ll grant there’s merit in breaking new ground. But if you are stuck in your writing – as I have been at times – because you feel you aren’t writing anything “new” or “different” enough, here’s a different perspective to keep in mind.
Check out this quote from a book called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovich:
“If we self-consciously try to be original, we can wander in the opposite direction, going for a distinctive voice that confuses originality with newness. Originality does not mean being unlike the past or present; it means being the origin, acting out of your own center. Out of your spontaneous heart you may do something reminiscent of the very old, and it will be original because it will be yours. Because you are the unique product of evolution, culture, environment, fate, and your own quirky history, what is obvious and humdrum to you is guaranteed to be thoroughly original.
Paradoxically, the more you are yourself, the more universal your message. As you develop and individuate more deeply, you break through into deeper layers of the collective consciousness and the collective unconsciousness.”
I found myself writing much more profusely when I stopped “trying” to be creative and different, and just let songs come out, even if they were two-chord songs or three-chord songs or standard-pop-structure songs… or whatever. It’s the songs that I let come out as they wanted, rather than the songs I tried to shape while they were born, that ended being the best ones in the end. And it’s the songs I wrote from my own experience and feelings that ended up being the most universal, accessible songs.
Some other quotes from Free Play are here. Happy writing.
(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn