I wrote my first song when I was 14 years old. Over the years, I’ve composed hundreds of songs. It was that interest – music – that led me to take a year off from pursuing a doctorate and led me down the circuitous path that has been the rest of my life.
I don’t write songs nowadays, more focused on screenplays and writing about writing. But I can’t help but think at least some of who I am as a writer derives from all that time studying and composing songs.
Each day this week at this time, I will post insight from a songwriter about their craft in the hope their words may inspire you as a writer.
Today: Leonard Cohen.
The mental physique is muscular. That gives you a certain stride as you walk along the dismal landscape of your inner thoughts. You have a certain kind of tone to your activity. But most of the time it doesn’t help. It’s just hard work.
But I think unemployment is the great affliction of man. Even people with jobs are unemployed. In fact, most people with jobs are unemployed. I can say, happily and gratefully, that I am fully employed. Maybe all hard work means is fully employed. We have a sense here that it’s smart not to work. The hustle, the con, these have been elevated to a very high position in our morality. And probably if I could mount a con or a hustle in terms of my own work I would probably embrace the same philosophy. But I am a working stiff. It takes me months and months of full employment to break the code of the song. To find out if there can be a song there.’
“I am a working stiff.”
I can live with that. A writer writes. All the time. It can be hard work. And maybe that means, as Cohen suggests, we are “fully employed”.
We traffic in creativity. We live with ideas. We do a lot of thinking. But bottom line, based on the fact that writing equals butt on chair and fingers on keyboard, we have a tactile relationship with our craft.
We are working stiffs.
So let’s get to work.