Issue #3 / October 2018
I write, and a lot of what you’ve said about it in the past really resonates with me, possibly because my dad was a teacher too. I feel the process is like trying to describe something which I can only see imperfectly, or out of the corner of my eye. Did you ever experience that? Also, I hope you record Fireflies.
S., London, UK
I very much like your description of the creative process – to see something imperfectly or out of the corner of your eye. This is exactly right. A good song idea never fronts up to you, never looks you in the eye, never announces itself – at least not in my experience. Lyric ideas are as illusive as fireflies. They are spirits flitting between the trees. The moment you give them your attention, they are gone.
Lyric ideas are as illusive as fireflies. They are spirits flitting between the trees.
But still you write, because over the years you have learned – midst the nonsensical hieroglyphics you compulsively scrawl in your notebooks, the dumb single lines that stare contemptuously back at you, the song titles that excite you then lose their magic the next time you look at them, the half-baked and derivative ideas, the stolen lines, the Freudian doodles, the desperate over-egged metaphors and lunatic, pencil-snapping, last-ditch attempts at something, my God, anything – you have learned to hold fast and trust. You have learned from hard-won experience that within this pile of words something mysterious is going on, something beyond the reaches of your understanding, something that simply takes its own sweet time and of which you are a tiny part – you are the guy who turns up to hold the pencil – and that suddenly, without warning, you find you have taken one line of no consequence and attached it to another line of no consequence and a kind of reverberation begins between the two lines, a throbbing – or as I like to call it, a ‘shimmering’ – it is something you can actually see! And as the two combined lines pulsate, they begin to collect significance impossibly, and at a rapid rate, to load up with meaning, even to call down a melody, and your heart begins to beat as if for the first time in God knows how long, and you come alive, you become an actual person, a functional, competent human being deserving of their place on this earth, because you know, suddenly, more than anything, that you are on to something and this shimmering convergence of words is setting off on its journey to change the world.
As for Fireflies, we are still searching for it.
Much love, Nick
I am loving reading your questions. They are wonderful things. As some are more like short novels, the questions are sometimes embedded deep in the letter. Very deep! I may need to edit and post just the actual question. I hope this is OK. Thank you all for your very thoughtful and considered questions.