If writing great songs were only as simple as wanting to do it, we'd all have dozens of them. It requires more commitment than that. If you're blown away by a song you hear or a book you read, rest assured someone needed to create it (even if it came quickly, the intense need to write was probably sustained for years). Great writers aren't really so gifted, they just have an impossible compulsion. They're "all in". The need keeps them awake when they want to sleep; it keeps them hungry when they want to be fed; it demands their attention when they want to daydream.
There are times when I catch myself looking for some point of entry like a junkie tapping on his veins. Yesterday's song is just yesterday's song-- a high that didn't last. If I had to go to dangerous alleys and midnight borders of the imagination for my fix, I probably would. There are those who see a work of art and feel a gentle glow inside. There are others who see a work of art and feel a fire in the blood to create one of their own. There's no escaping it, no letting it pass, no procrastination. It's an allurement as intoxicating as any substance known to man. When it isn't there, we ache for it. But where the need is deep, so can be the result and reward.
Whenever I'm "engaged to a song" I know there will be many drafts of the lyric. There will be moments when I want to rip out my hair because part of the melody isn't holding up. Bring it on. I fall sleep on the sofa in the den and wake up at the first light of dawn excited to begin again. Bring it on. When the song is finished there's a feeling of temporary wholeness I can't find in any other pursuit. Yes, only to begin again...but joyously in spite of it all.
You'll recognize your need if you have one. Let your creative hours be sacrosanct and uncompromised. Put life on hold. Throw caution to the wind (insert any more cliches you can think of here).
As I lay awake last night lamenting another day in which I worked for ten hours and produced not a single creative thing, I thought of all the contented folk who didn't create anything either, and who slept soundly with a pleasant dream. I wanted to feel contentment, rest, peace. I told myself that most words are written on sand. Most melodies die with the singer. Most paintings darken with the patina of the world's grit and grime. Why make anything at all?
I believe we make things because we are the pressure valve of the ultimate making of things. Through us escapes the blow-off of creative forces no one can imagine. That is our role in the big picture. There's really no self-importance in a creative act when you understand the mysterious and uncontrollable nature of it. It's all for the sake of an elemental energy in the pipeline that chooses your particular point of exit. Creative needs are like geysers in Yellowstone; warm salty mud being blown out of the way so the earth can keep its crust intact for another day. The earth doesn't respect geysers, it simply uses them. I am used, you are used; we're The Need incarnate and we'll never fully understand the unseen forces below the surface. There's no remedy for it but a blissful surrender.
copyright 2009 by craig bickhardt