Wednesday, February 10, 2010


"Books aren't written. They are re-written." Michael Crichton

The same may be said of poems and songs.

We all have different styles of writing, but I sincerely doubt that any song I've ever heard at the Songwriters Woodshed is the writers very first draft. I know that my poet friends and I wrestle with our words in isolation, struggling to polish them and when we glimpse that first sparkle, only then do we feel it might be alright to actually show a poem to someone else.

I am constantly rewriting, even poems that have been published never seem "done" to me. I have to force myself to hit the "save" button, walk away from the desk, convince myself that I will never find a better word than "agonize" and move on to something else.

Lately I've been dreaming in words. When I'm first waking up, wondering if it's 3:00 a.m. or if I've been blessed with a full night's sleep, there will be a snippet of a poem right there for me to catch. I'm getting better at actually writing it down, keeping a notebook by the bed. And I've turned these snippets into reasonable poems....but usually not without a ton of rewording. The original concept remains the same, however.

I've asked myself several times why some of the songwriters do not appear to be more open to critique of their work when presented at the woodshed. I think I understand now, at least I think I understand how some of them might feel. The concept is of a song is theirs. They've lived with it, reworked it, spent hours or even weeks trying to convey the emotion they felt, something experienced, or to tell a story that's important to them. And when they finally feel they've "got" it, they play it in front of this group and then -- wham -- that group wants to add their take....all in good faith with the desire to make it better....when the author already feels it's almost as good as it's going to be. Not a word gets rewritten.

I haven't been to the Songwriters Woodshed in a few months because I felt the critique hasn't been meaningful, was too picky, not worthwhile. But I think now it's not the critique that was the problem. It was the quality of the songs being critiqued: they were too good, too finished. They don't need much rewriting, so there's not much for the group to focus on. I hope next time I go to hear more raw material, more that needs to be rewritten.

"You have to write down what you'll abandon." Leonard Cohen.

So true.

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