The Initial Spark
Updated: Jan 21, 2022
My original songs often write themselves – at the start. Those initial sparks come from many different places. Sometimes, they start with a lyrical spark or snippet. This might be inspired by, for example:
An interesting image or situation that I observe (e.g. “Ghost Bike”)
A unique phrase that I read in a book or hear in a conversation.
A conflict or dilemma I’m experiencing (e.g. “Close the Door”)
A unique character in a book I'm reading (e.g. "Tin Drum")
At other times, my songs start with a chord progression or a beat. This often happens when I’m walking, when the rhythm of my feet–or another sound in the environment–repeats itself and drums its way into my subconscious. Acclaimed songwriter Jeff Tweedy explained that "walking tends to unravel the knots in [his] thinking" (How to Write One Song, p. 46). This is certainly the case for me. As I walk and let my mind wander, a phrase or melody will emerge that inspires me to pause, pull out my iPhone and capture a quick recording of that idea.
In order to catch those sparks, I need to be attentive. To have and hold space to let my mind wander. To notice. To imagine. To wonder. That's not easy to do in our fast-paced, media-driven world. It requires saying no and staying still. I'm still working on both of those!