Issue #108 / August 2020
What do you do when the lyrics just aren’t coming?
MARKO, ZAGREB, CROATIA
In my experience, lyrics are almost always seemingly just not coming. This is the tearful ground zero of song writing — at least for some of us. This lack of motion, this sense of suspended powerlessness, can feel extraordinarily desperate for a songwriter. But the thing you must hold on to through these difficult periods, as hard as it may be, is this — when something’s not coming, it’s coming. It took me many years to learn this, and to this day I have trouble remembering it.
The idea of lyrics ‘not coming’ is basically a category error. What we are talking about is not a period of ‘not coming’ but a period of ‘not arriving’. The lyrics are always coming. They are always pending. They are always on their way toward us. But often they must journey a great distance and over vast stretches of time to get there. They advance through the rugged terrains of lived experience, battling to arrive at the end of our pen. In time, they emerge, leaping free of the unknown — from memory or, more thrillingly, from the predictive part of our minds that exists on the far side of the lived moment. It has been a long and arduous journey, and our waiting much anguished.
Marko, our task is both simple and extremely difficult. Our task is to remain patient and vigilant and to not lose heart — for we are the destination. We are the portals from which the idea explodes, forced forth by its yearning to arrive. We are the revelators, the living instruments through which the idea announces itself — the flourishing and the blooming — but we are also the waiting and the wondering and the worrying. We are all of these things — we are the songwriters.