Friday, July 6, 2012

Take 1 Writers Block, 2 Instruments, 6 Hours, 10 Songs and a Computer.

I'm having a holiday this week from my normal work teaching music and working at a homelessness service.

I've been looking forward to the free time so I could finish those last three songs for the West Brunswick album. Write them out of my system and move on to recording them was the plan. Well, the best laid plans eh?!

When I came to sit down and write I was so anxious; about finishing which is caused by the ridiculously high expectations I have for myself and my work, about there being no more songs left, and about falling short of what everyone may be expecting from my efforts. Typical songwriterly preoccupations, really.  I was so preoccupied with fear that nothing came out or if it did, I believed it was no good! What to do?

Well, I've been writing long enough to know that these irrational creative fears need to be dealt with immediately so that I can get to the songs sitting behind the anxiety and I have just the antidote. A few years ago, I came across two books. "The Artists Way", written for everyone who wants to live a more creative life and  "The Frustrated Songwriters Handbook", written for blocked songwriters.

In "The Artists Way" the author, Julia Cameron, talks about creative blocks being the product of too many ideas not too few, which made, and still makes, sense to me. "The Frustrated Songwriters Handbook" has exactly the right exercise to shift the block. It throws out a simple challenge to write 20 songs in 12 hours.

I did the exercise a few years ago, albeit in a slightly modified version, and it worked a treat. So I decided to do it again. I set myself a challenge of writing 10 songs in 6 hours. That's an album's worth in one sitting. I found that completing songs 8, 9 and 10 became the most important part of the exercise as this is where I've got stuck with the "West Brunswick" songs.  So on Wednesday at 11am, I sat down and started.

What I did was write the first thing that came into my head over the first chords that arrived under my fingers. One song every 36 minutes. Some are hilarious, some are really poignant, some are mean, some sound like other songs, one is really dirty and one made me cry.

Once each song was finished, I did a rough recording and moved on.

I listened to my "album" at the end of the session. It was great! I felt a real sense of accomplishment, the anxiety was released and I finished feeling lighter and brighter and confident that I can finish those West Brunswick songs now. I might even borrow a mates West Brunswick bungalow for inspiration as I now live in Coburg and do the exercise again next week - what do ya reckon Allie and Adrian?

Stay tuned for the "10 Sydney Songs in a Day Album" on this blog soon - roughly recorded by me on my computer complete with computer noise and dodgy mixing!

Try the challenge yourself and let's do a gig together that showcases our songs.

Helen x

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