Inspiration Vitamins

If only there was a way to package up inspiration into some sort of vitamin form. We'd stumble out of bed in the morning (well, most musicians I know stumble out of bed) and head for the bottle - of inspiration capsules! "Take one or two daily for a boost of energy, probable epiphany and near-certain productivity. Do not exceed recommended dosage lest your heart explode with enthusiasm."

If only.

Inspiration, the Muse, is very real. In fact, I think little kids have it in abundance. For them, all things are possible, with a fine line between the imagined and the real. If they dream it, it is, or can be. Their minds and hearts are wide open, and they are geared toward creative fun.

I was watching "Shark Tank", a television program where hopeful entrepreneurs ask tycoons for an investment to help their businesses. A woman has created a pre-made "fort" package. For $200, parents can buy the basic components for building all kinds of different-shaped forts. To be honest, while I understood the concept, and even the convenience, I felt a bit sad. Where is the inspiration of a child in piecing together a pre-made structure? Don't we learn what works and what doesn't when we resourcefully start piling things together to see a vision come to pass? In the world of a child, a blanket is a roof, or a floor, or a robe, or a table cloth, or…Tumbling cushions and disarrayed furniture seem like a 'right of passage' to me.

But, I digress a bit...

When it comes to songwriting, we all want to be inspired. There's nothing like that feeling where your heart starts to swell, or you begin to get the spidey-sense that you're on to something really great. We want to write the song that's going to mean something, reach people, have an impact…Here are a couple of things I've learned about inspiration…

1) It cannot be conjured. And there are no inspiration vitamins. I, for one, don't recommend any mind-altering substance for songwriting inspiration, though I know some might.

2) It mainly comes when "moving" Sitting on a couch watching television doesn't inspire great songs (Trust me, I know) So, get to your instrument…"fiddle" around. Play for fun. Or, go for a walk. Get to an art gallery. Go see a show. Spend time alone. Pray. But again, get to your instrument and trust it to come.

3) It's tied to emotions. The best songs make us feel something, and the best songwriters are super-sensitive and empathetic. I think the ability to "go there" and to empathize with the pain (and joy) of others is a God-given gift. When deep feeling, positive or negative, can be channeled into great songwriting - wow!

I admit, however, that I spend too much energy avoiding pain. Being alone with my thoughts can feel overwhelming (hence getting lost in TV, social media, books, socializing - effective distractions) But out of strong emotion, I've written some songs that people still write me about. Don't be afraid to "go there", and put the pain to work. (note to self)

4) It's a privilege. Be grateful when it happens. And when it happens, understand that there is likely some "work" to follow. Rarely does a song just plop out in one fell, um, plop. Usually it needs to be coaxed along, and this is where the craft, and the discipline of songwriting come into play.

Which leads me to…

5) Don't stop at inspiration. It's just the spark. The fuel. As awful as this will sound to some people, I really don't like the phrase "God gave me this song". If the song is terrible, even just mediocre, it may invite replies like, "Is He punishing you?" or "Is He punishing me?" or "Please ask Him to take it back" or "Is the rest of it coming later?"

Jokes aside, to say "God gave me this song" rings of false humility, a.k.a. pride. It sounds like the songwriter is trying to set him or herself apart,  immune from criticism and exempt from actual work and accountability.

God breathes inspiration all the time, into us, into Creation. The mere shifting of clouds in the sky, an ever-evolving canvas for us to enjoy, is an example of this. It's not just for a "special" few. But if our gift is songwriting, then our job, our responsibility, is to be ready for it when it comes, and to honour it by shaping it into something excellent…to do our very best with the gift and the privilege of it.

Last thought on this today…We all go through dry spells, writer's block, seasons where "life" takes over and there just doesn't seem to be time, space or energy to "be" and to "be inspired". I'm learning that worrying about it too much is counter-productive. Stay open and receive grace for yourself. Perhaps some of the worst pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves to be something we are not in a given moment.

Wait. Listen. Play. Build a fort. It'll come.

2 comments

  • Jerry  Dykmans

    Jerry Dykmans Morden

    Beautiful Jaylene. Ever true. You captured the elements. I read somewhere that art is the collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist has to do with it the better. Some of the stuff I have written was Holy Spirit driven, Jesus driven. But the Father remains the great unknown for me. David Crosby in a recent intterview said love was his favourite topic because it is an uplifting force. Put a caplital L on love and you get closer to where the Father originates and the uplifting force comes from. A quote from "Throw Momma from the Train" a comedy starring Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal worth seeing is: "Writers write" and you do what you love to do very well. Writers just have to write. We can't help it.

    Beautiful Jaylene. Ever true. You captured the elements. I read somewhere that art is the collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist has to do with it the better. Some of the stuff I have written was Holy Spirit driven, Jesus driven. But the Father remains the great unknown for me. David Crosby in a recent intterview said love was his favourite topic because it is an uplifting force. Put a caplital L on love and you get closer to where the Father originates and the uplifting force comes from. A quote from "Throw Momma from the Train" a comedy starring Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal worth seeing is: "Writers write" and you do what you love to do very well. Writers just have to write. We can't help it.

  • jerrydykman.com

    jerrydykman.com morden

    Butterflly girl noticed the Coral sitar wonder if it is the real thing or a keyboard sample. Sounds great. Your lyrics are the right mix of simple and complex. Not too superficial and not too deep. Lovely high notes on angels. Great melodic leaps, sounds inspired to me.

    Butterflly girl noticed the Coral sitar wonder if it is the real thing or a keyboard sample. Sounds great.
    Your lyrics are the right mix of simple and complex. Not too superficial and not too deep. Lovely high notes on angels.
    Great melodic leaps, sounds inspired to me.

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