I’m writing a song and it just won’t sound natural. I’ve been going at it for quite a few days now, hammering it out, but I can’t seem to make the bridge less…bridgey. In fact, the entire song sounds too deliberate, too mechanical, as if someone wrote one note after another in hopes of finding a song at the end of a string of notes.
But hey, that’s exactly what I – casual, amateur songwriter – did.
We all admire people that effortlessly perform tasks we find difficult, whether this be music, sports, dance, acting, whatever – and of course writing. Have you ever read a book so elegant, so natural, so flowing, it was as if the writer plucked a story out of the air and inserted it into a book? Without the need to pour over mind-maps and spreadsheets, whiteboards and sticky note flowcharts. Then, you wonder if you could have written that. The writer had made it seem so easy, as if any nitwit with half a brain could have plucked the story out of thin air.
Stories are awesome when they seem natural, when characters are believable and make believable actions, when the story doesn’t seem planned but works out anyway. Stories suck when they look like a military team planned out all the tactics on a strategy table. Narration sucks when it’s stiff, convoluted, over-written, and unbelievable.
My dear fellow amateur writers, I believe we are all walking the same path on the same quest to this ideal of effortlessness, when our pieces are strung so seamlessly it’s as if we were never there. Like the story wrote itself. How do we get there? I’m sorry – this post does not provide that answer; I am merely here to share my thoughts 🙂
But I believe in practice. As a player of musical instruments I can well attest to the feeling of helplessness when one is first approached by a new piece. Your fingers get stuck and your eyes water as the notes seem to blend together. You see your instructor play the piece effortlessly, a tempo, and in the pit of your stomach you think: “Surely I will never get there.” But lo and behold, fast forward a few weeks, and you’ve got the song beneath your fingers, trickling at a steady allegro.
I believe in practice, but I also believe in relaxation once in a while. Remember that song I was writing? I shoved it away for a little while and just started noodling around the guitar, when I found something within the progressions. I shut off the logical side of my brain, the part that worries about resolving cadences, verses that rhyme, so I could just feel out the chords. I’m not sure how I did it, but I came up with an intro, a verse, a bridge, and a chorus in what must have been under ten minutes.
Now, I’m no professional songwriter; not even close! I’ve only written a handful or so songs in my life, and only about a pinch of those have actually made musical sense. But hey, if you try enough, good stuff does happen, maybe even a miracle! Pick up that guitar, pick up that pen, do something, and may you find your way to effortlessness.