The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.”
~Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
I write most days, we all do. For me, my writing goes on to become a commercial or a promo. For you, it might be a blog, or your website, even your students School Reports or a presentation to the board or a bunch of clients. Point is, we all have to write at some stage. It struck me a long while ago, that even tho we think they are in another league, Rock Stars are actually writers just like us. Albeit their work gets heard by a lot more people. So what can we learn from these prolific writers to help us in our daily quest for written perfection?
Recently on the Mojo Radio Show, I spoke with John Corabi (Lead vocalist and
songwriter for "The Dead Daisies") and he talked about getting a "vibe from the music" when he is looking for a place to start when it comes to writing lyrics for songs. And for me, that struck a chord, as when it comes to writing a script for a commercial or a promo that's still a great place to start, however, replace the word "music" with "product" whether it be station product or client product or service. What sort of "vibe" is it giving? Then structure your words (and production cues) around that.
In another interview, this time with legendary Australian songwriter Iva Davies we discussed where and when he writes. In his case, he needs a "commission" to write. That is he writes best under pressure, or when he has a deadline to meet.
So when are you at your best? In the morning/evening, on the train when you have an abundance of visual cues, or at night when the house is quiet and a cup of coffee steams away next to you (as I am now).
Iva also talked about his rituals around writing and was emphatic in his assertion that even today, after more than 40 years in the industry and countless hit records, movie themes and writing for the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony, he needs to practice his craft. Whether it be picking up a guitar whilst watching TV, or noodling on the Piano whilst on a phone call, practice is still an essential part of what he does. Same goes for us, practise your writing, pick a topic and noodle a bunch of thoughts on it, then turn them into a document or presentation. The old adage is still true today "Practice makes perfect".
Singer/Songwriter Wendy Matthews talked about how Journaling was one of
the most important things she did for her songwriting. Using her Journal to record conversations or even just snippets of them, things she's noticed, or even just to write letters to herself to use as inspiration at a later date.
How about you? Do you take notice of that guy sitting opposite you on the train? Is there some Gold in the conversation you have with the checkout assistant in your fruit shop? What about that taxi driver who dropped an absolute clanger of a line on a topic you have to write/talk about next week?
Not being afraid to take cues from your own heroes, or others, in general, was a big thing for Chrissy Amphlett of Aussie rock icons the Divynals. She confessed to regularly taking ideas from her peers and turning them around into her own unmistakable style.
No I'm not supporting Plagiarism (and neither was she), but I am (and if Chrissy were here she would too) saying listen to and read other peoples work, take what they do well and make it your own.
I'm sure there are a million other stories that songwriters out there have just like these, but these are the ones that come to mind when I think back over the hours of interviews I have recorded and produced during my days in radio or as Host of the Mojo Radio show.
Don't be daunted by the prospect of having to write, start preparing now. Take these tips from Rock n Roll's best and throw yourself into it, who knows what you're capable of coming up with?
You can listen to some of the interviews I mention in this article here...