Tales of 14-Songs-in-14-Days: Some days you’re the windshield …


by Jan Seides
Thursday 29th March, 2012, 8:21pm

This second installment is also a story about the first 14 songs in 14 days project, but it’s about one of the songs that didn’t work. Well, it did work. The problem was that when I tried to actually make the song, I could no longer remember the idea.

One of the things I learned in this first 14 days project was that there really is no such thing as “Writer’s Block”. Songs are literally everywhere! If you want a new song, you can have one. OK. It’s not quite as simple as that sounds. The one you can have at any given moment might not be one you would be willing to perform (or even admit to having written) to anyone.  As Pat Pattison is fond of saying, “90% of what you write is NOT your best 10%.”  In other words, once you have it, you may hate it. So what?

I saw a TED Talk (If you don’t know about these, you are definitely in for a treat. Go to http://www.ted.com/talks for a treasure trove of great speeches and ideas. Go even if you do know about them. There’s always something new.) by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she talks about nurturing creativity.  Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love – an absolutely delicious illuminating book.  Check that out too, if you haven’t already.  Anyway, my favorite moment is when she describes Tom Waits who has just had a great song idea, looking up through his windshield as he’s driving down the freeway, in the rain I think, and he speaks to the universe thusly: “Can you not see that I’m driving right now????? Come back later!!!!!”

I believe that worked for him. I have no confidence that it would work for me, as all the evidence so far points the other way.

However, on the second Wednesday of our project, I had this wonderful idea for “today’s song”. Unfortunately, I was teaching someone’s piano lesson at the time, and couldn’t follow through. By the time the lesson was over, the song was gone.  I once heard Janis Ian say that she thought it was the height of arrogance to refuse a song entry when one came to you. I totally agree with her. If you refuse, it goes somewhere else. Which is what this one did, I guess.  Anyway, it was no longer mine.

So as I’m rounding the corner to my street, I realize the song is gone and I still need one for the project for this day. Oddly, although I’m sad, I’m not devastated. As I try to convince myself that the song will return if I listen hard enough, I’m reminded of a night when I was living in New York when I was listening to the radio and was astonished to hear a station that I knew was coming from Detroit. It was “Rockin’ Robin” Seymour from WKMH. When I asked the next day, I was told that radio waves sometimes hit the stratosphere and bounce back to earth at an angle. I took this at face value, since I’d actually heard it happen. Now that I’m writing it, I find myself wondering what they could hit in the stratosphere, but I’ll have to save that for later.

I became convinced that my song idea still existed in the universe and would someday return to me — and that’s what my song that day turned out to be about. I will never know if that first idea actually does come back, but I was pretty happy with the resulting lament.

So here’s the song. It’s a home recording, done on my little AKAI hard-disk recorder: Wednesday’s Song

Before I leave you, I wanted to make you aware of something wonderful. My friend Jean Synodinos, who is part of this project, put out an album last fall that included not only some of her 14 songs, but one from another member of the group, Katie Gosnell. The album just won the Texas Music Awards “Album of the Year”. It’s in permanent rotation in my car. You should check it out:  http://jeansynodinos.com

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May 2012

Thursday 3rd, 12:07pm

Lovely! I love the twists and turns in the melody. Your Wednesday song child is full of grace, and no longer need be woeful.

Author Comment

May 2012

Thursday 3rd, 2:12pm

by Jan Seides

Thanks, Kay! I'm so glad you liked it. Good to hear from you. Hope all is well.

May 2012

Friday 4th, 5:48am

I've not been here, before, but I must agree with the concept of songs finding their way into your consciousness. I have two songs that simply started with a word or concept, and during the attempt to get a handle on the idea, the song revealed itself to me. "The Key" was a "project song" and ended up being a song of self-determination, while "Mirror, Mirror" started out as a humorous look at how we repeat out mother's quotes in our own lives, and ended up as a poignant tribute to Mom, instead. I love both songs and will do everything I can to encourage more of the same type of results, in the future!

Author Comment

May 2012

Friday 4th, 12:13pm

by Jan Seides

Hi Melissa -

I absolutely love your story about "Mirror, Mirror". I can't count the number of times that the song I thought I was writing turned out to be a different song than the one I was currently working on.

I've also had songs that appeared, fully clothed (most of them), while I was asleep, so that I had to scramble to make myself wake up and write them down. If that isn't proof that they're coming through me, rather than from me, I don't know what is.

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