Veronique Darwin

Accidentally Writing Songs

In Inspiration, My Writing, Thoughts on Writing on May 11, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Writing songs is a very easy process if you don’t know what songs should sound like, which is where I feel I am at in my musical journey. I listen to songs, and I like them, but do I really know what a chord is? A key? I wrote a song a few weekends ago for a songwriting workshop I casually took, no big deal, and they asked me what artist I pictured would sing that song. I still don’t know. I can’t figure it out because the song doesn’t actually seem like a real song.

Wondering if a song I wrote is really a song is the same issue I ran into when I started writing short stories: does what I just did count? It wasn’t until a few stories in that I noticed that it did, not because I read a book about the short story structure or because I analyzed anything, but because I knew innately from reading them what a short story feels like. What I’d written felt like a story, and whether it stood up or not in terms of language and structure and characters didn’t matter. Having gone through the process of writing and enjoying writing a story was enough to let me sleep at night. Even if the feeling wasn’t there, I would probably still have slept at night, though.

cake topper

Isn’t that the first step, really, to writing a song? Making sure the song is a song? I don’t mean it needs to have a bridge, or rhyme, but just that it is musical in some way that is familiar, just that it has some sort of art to it. And I can’t expect it to be any good, but if it feels creative and expressive and I had fun and surprise doing it, then that is enough for me right now in my writing. I love writing a sentence in a story that I don’t recognize. And when I sing something and play on my ukulele a series of chords that goes with that thing I just sang, that feels insanely creative and out of the limits of what I thought I could do. So that is a song. That is creativity expressed in music.

When the songwriting class asked who it was that I pictured singing the song I’d written, I really wanted to say Taylor Swift. Or I kind of wanted to have written an indie ballad or one of those build-up songs that gets louder as it goes. But I hadn’t written anything like that. I’d written a hokey song about crabs. Then I wanted to tell the group that I pictured myself singing the song, but not in public, because this is the first song I’ve ever written, so no one – not any artist alive, even myself – should be forced to sing this song, not even in the recesses of my mind. Then I sang it to them, in public, and I realized that answer was okay. I couldn’t picture a musical artist singing it because it was very much my song, a song I needed to write and sing. And I wondered how that could possibly be, that I could have just written a song that felt like me. And though I don’t really know the answer, I’m going to keep asking it, and by doing so, I’m going to keep sleeping at night.

My Nightmares

In Dreams, Thoughts on Writing on April 6, 2016 at 9:20 pm

I am in a house and someone is trying to get into the house. I am in a house and someone is also in the house and I must sneak out of the house. I am in a house and someone is outside so I need to hide under window frames.

What is with this house business? My dream dictionary, which I opened, says that the house is me. New nightmares:

I am in me and someone is trying to get into me too. I am in me and someone is also in me and I must sneak out of me. I am in me and someone is outside of me and I need to hide under window frames?

I don’t know. The other day someone gave me an apple in a dream and I just thought: That is a thing. Dreams are a thing and I can’t wait to go to sleep at night because I love their entertainment value. But sometimes I wonder about their intentions.

o-HAUNTED-HOUSE-facebook.jpg

(photo https://www.pinterest.com/charisbranson/scary-houses/…does not appear in my dreams because I am always inside my house)

Are dreams meant to get me thinking about unresolved issues? Or (as I would like to think) are they maybe meant to resolve them? Because I’m spending lots of my own time in my own consciously-controlled life thinking through issues, so I’d like a little chance to rest every once in a while, and sleep used to be the way I did that. Now I do nightmares. What is their purpose? Why are they happening now?

Yes, it’s quieter here than where I used to be. Yes, my cat is getting older and meowing for no reason in the middle of the night. Yes, so many things are new and scary but I’m not scared of them, I’m not scared of people getting into my house! So I’m thinking, what if instead, my dreams are inventing? What if my dreams are me playing? And what if I can play back?

I once woke up from a vivid, well-crafted, epic dream and decided to write it down. People said you couldn’t do this. I know you cannot do this. I know that the most unsatisfying ending of a story is “It was all a dream”. But why? What makes that so insanely annoying? What is it about dreams, though, that aren’t? They are completely nonsensical, peopled with metamorphosing hybrid characters, places you’ve never seen and situations that make absolutely no sense, but when you’re in them, you’re sold. Like any good story, dreams suspend disbelief. But when you wake from one, why does that semblance of reality stay? Why do we all think we need to tell our dreams to others, as though they will be impressed? They are never! The dreams are bad! Why don’t we see that?

I don’t have an answer, because dreams fascinate me and I can’t stop thinking about them but I also can’t figure them out. What I know is I am night-maring often and this has definitely caught my attention and whether I’m going to Freud it up or not, I need to deal with this people in my house business.

Next time I’m in my house dream, I vow to confront the demons. Maybe I will set fire to the house. Maybe I will break the windows. Maybe I will open the door to the wind.

Finding Time from Time

In Inspiration, Thoughts on Writing on February 23, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Whenever I have a day to myself I imagine the writing I will get done and the reading I will indulge in. But everyone knows that the busier person is more productive, that the vacuuming will only ever happen minutes before the guests arrive. We find time in the most unlikely of places, squeezing any last drops, draining it out of impossible taps. I’d like to propose an alternative. What if we found time in time itself?

A five minutes in front of the mirror, smiling at the face you once knew but have recently forgotten to take care of. A fire is made for watching, but when did I last sit, as my cat does, in front of it for hours? That moment where you’re leaving and remember you needed to put that thing away for the fifth day in a row but there’s no time now? There’s time in time. What if we made time for time.

I ask you to indulge me in a fantasy: an hour being 60 minutes, each of those minutes 50 seconds or more. What could you make of that, if you lived it?

I’m learning to play the ukulele. It’s been a while I’ve been learning, but not a while were you to tally up all the minutes of playing. I play ukulele the way I live: it’s a thing I’m constantly doing but not always actually doing. I joined an advanced class thinking that might kick me in the butt, in whatever way, and it has so far in several. Being inspired to practice more, I notice the blooming of time when I’m practicing, as though it’s just opened up and offered itself from itself. Where was that hour before? It just appeared, seemingly, out of every day life.

It helps to watch a cat live. There is no time. There is no apparent purpose. There isn’t, like, enormous heaps of joy either, but there is a life there. There is a life there worth considering.

Time with those I love feels precious. Why doesn’t time alone have that same quality? I cherish writing, reading and daydreaming as some of my favourite and most important things I believe I should be doing. So why do I do them so little? I think if we all put a bit more effort into stealing time away from itself, not into slowing it down but into expanding it, we’d notice the special effects of relativity: that the experience of time depends on the speed of the observer, and not the other way around.

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