I’d like to think of myself as a fragment of jagged sea glass, not yet smooth or refined, tumbling around in the crashing ocean waves. Revolutions on repeat. Just when I find my footing, I’m ripped from the shore and tossed about in a sea of unknowns. Over and over again, it’s an endless dance, though sea glass is never worse for wear. It improves with time, experience & resistance - it’s a work in progress. So am I.
Lyrics are like sea glass, too. They need time, toiling around like debris until the unnecessary edges are sanded off, and what remains is polished to perfection - finally ready to be plucked up and kept for a pretty souvenir. Lyrics need to tumble off our tongue, and rest in our ears a few times before they are fully realized.
Writer’s block is a chronic affliction of mine. I’m lucky if I can come up with a completed song, once every 6 months. Zap! - Through my mind like a sudden spark, an idea fires up and I have the impulse to sing it or write it down. No sooner does my pencil hit the paper - the idea barely formed - and that poor sucker’s seconds are already numbered. That ugly old judge in my head furrows his brow, hammers his mallet down hard and delivers the death sentence. Trial is over, I quickly turn my back and leave. I’m already forgetting the idea ever happened. It never stood a chance. I hear the judge’s voice echo behind me, “Who’s next?!?”
Who’s To Blame?
New ideas are never what they seem. They’re diamonds in the rough. Perhaps it’s their jagged nature that’s to blame. My discomfort with their crude appearance seems to be the reason why I trash them, and so many of my songs remain unfinished… That voice says: it’s not good enough.
But wait a minute. imagine if everybody who ever had a new idea gave up on it this quickly… We’d still be waiting for someone to invent the wheel. Does the sculptor start with something that resembles a statue? Nuh, uh. Nope! Instead it’s a hunk of clay, whose primitive shape and texture inspire the creative muse! Sometimes creativity means creating a mess to get somewhere.
MY critical mindset is the real offender here. If songs are tiny seedlings in need of tender care, then my condemning thoughts are weeds that entangle and suffocate. New ideas are so fragile - careful, or you might squeeze the life out of them!
All works of art have to begin at a rudimentary level. Take them on a journey - Find out what they need to survive. Shape and reshape them until they assume a more sophisticated form.
When I’m in a rare state of creative flow, I’m as fluid and flexible as water - I allow my ideas to pass through my mind like a current. I’m compassionate and curious as my creation takes shape. I’m blissed-out in this writer’s high, and I never want the feeling to leave me. I wish every time I sat down at the piano, guitar or easel, my work was this effortless!
The cheerleading squad in my head says “Go team, Go!” and begs, “Do it again!” As if it was that easy to pull another victory on command. But in the match against writer’s block, there’s no such thing as home court advantage. You are your own worst opponent. With a team of critics, you can out-play every single clever move your imagination makes.
Let’s Bring This Home
My main point? Get out of the way of your ideas. Bench your desire for everything to be perfect. Start with something dull, confusing, cliché, or uncomfortable, and work at it for a while.
A teacher once told me a good exercise is to free write on any subject you choose, but without erasing, pausing, crossing out, or second guessing… Try it daily and observe how that judge’s furrowed brow softens, and you relax and settle into the flow.
If I am like sea glass, and songwriting is like sea glass, then perhaps I can apply this same patient effort towards my self. Maybe I can say yes to more opportunities, impulses, ideas, instead of immediately shutting them down. I wonder what ideas, or talents, or parts of ourselves we frighten into submission, saying we’re not good enough.
Thanks for reading! Leave me some feedback, please - I’d love to hear your personal experiences on this topic!
Those last two paintings are my originals, based on themes of creativity and self expression. Hope you like!