This is FWN's 'Dear Abby' column: musicians send us questions, we post them with answers and a fun made-up pseudonym.
I'm the main songwriter for my band but there's a problem. You see, I haven't exactly been writing songs lately.
The lyrics, it's.. it's as if they've abandoned me. I'm talking Dikembe Mutombo-quality blockage.
Help me break out of this funk! Please band oracle, please!
Thanks again for all you do,
Stump Ed Again
Ah, the writing gods are wagging their proverbial Dikembe finger at you, huh? No worries, it happens to the best of us (and in our case, the worst of us).
I have two solutions for you to consider; I see this as a simple matter of space and preparation.
What is your writing space like? Where do you write? Alone? Around others? Outside? Indoors? Sober? Er.. not sober?
I'd start here. Make small changes to your writing space.
If you write while "under the influence" try writing in the morning before anything too crazy can happen. What's that? You're shit-wasted by 9am? Daily?
Well then, maybe aiming for sober was a stretch. Try shooting for some larger target, like maybe only try being half-shit-wasted by 9am (quarter-shit-wasted preferable).
If you typically write alone let me suggest writing at the bus station or the airport or some other depot where humanity can fully engulf you.
I often refer to people-watching as prompt-fishing. We humans are living, breathing, walking prompts. I write in public spaces for these cherished writing prompts alone.
Space. Context. These things matter. Matter matters. Space matters. Ladders matter!
[inner dialogue] "Where the fuck am I going with this? Ladders matter??? WTF man?! Reel it in, reel it..."
Lookie here Stump, there's always trophies for participants of Context Contests.
How do you go about writing a song exactly Stump? Do you prefer to discover the song organically? Do you just let the lyrics and melody emanate straight from your Chi?
Is your writing style more structured? Do you have outlines and topics laid out beforehand?
If you're just a natural born songwriting guru whose lyrical aura produces a heat index of 373.1339 Kelvin, I got nothing to offer you.
However, if you are looking for the easy path?? Short Cut is my middle name (for real though, it's Prewitt Short Cut Scott-Jackson. Check it. I got papers, dude).
If I were a Dr. I'd prescribe you a healthy dose of Mad Lib Methodology. You remember Mad Libs, yea?
1. Start with 2-3 adjectives. You can choose adjectives with positive or negative connotations but stay congruent, don't mix & match. Examples: dirty, cynical, dogmatic (negative) or generous, inventive, resourceful (positive)
2. Next, choose one of your hobbies. A verb, something you like to do (run, swing, jump, hike)
3. Pick your favorite color
4. Someone you look up to (famous, historical or otherwise)
5. Favorite mode of locomotion (walking, running, quadrumanous, tip-toeing, dancing, etc.)
6. Choose your favorite native North American alpha-predator (wolf, black bear, mountain lion, etc.)
7. Favorite object in the solar system (our solar system)
8. ALWAYS use the "yea, [insert chorus refrain here]" technique*
And like that, poof! Buh-bye blocks!
Here's a song I wrote in about 3 minutes using sacred Mad Lib songwriting technologies:
"Tip-Toe Sun" by Prewitt Scott-Jackson and The Short Cuts
with dirty jeans your cynical beans
sprouted from dogmatic means
like hiking with no wolf to guide you
no worries, Day-Lewis will find you
Green, green, green
livin' under a
Green, green, green
Yea, it's a tip-toe Sun*
Okay, so that song is fucking hot garbage fire, but hey, you get the picture. Next time you start to feel lyrically-challenged, Mad Lib it up!
Wishing you all the best in your future songwriting endeavors Stump,
about the word writer person:
Prewitt Scott-Jackson writes Dad poetry & short fiction when he's not hyping and typing for Fort Worth Noise. His writing can be found in Ghost City Press (New York), Five 2 One Magazine (Los Angeles), Prairie Schooner (University of Nebraska Press) and Sick Lit Magazine (Texas), among others. He prefers short walks on the beach because – and I quote – “It’s really hard to walk on sand.”