I envy my child. She wears essentially the same outfit every day: skinny jeans, a band or gamer t-shirt, high-top Cons. She might vary up her earrings, but otherwise, getting dressed is a three-minute, dramaless ritual.
I, on the other hand, end up with a scattered pile of rejects before I settle on whatever outfit finally feels right. Being rather OCD, I must put it all away, nice a tidy, before I can get on with my morning. PITA.
When I’m writing a song, the same thing sort of happens. I pull a bunch of lyrics out, trying them on for size. Does this word look okay with this chorus? I really like this phrase; how can I make it fit in with the rest of the song?
When all is said and done, I’m left with a scattered pile of rejects. Luckily, I don’t have to put them away. There’s nowhere to put them, after all. Maybe they’ll work some other time, so like the grainy photos from my 1980’s teen years, when my sense of fashion was like, totally awesome, I take them out to look at every now and then.
While writing my recent piece “Wonder Girl,” I brainstormed words and phrases that helped create images, in this case a righteous babe of a superhero and her desperate admirer. Lyrics that made it: power pose, secret weapon, sidekick, take me to your leader. Lyrics that hit the floor: cape and mask, at your command, fire when ready, decoder ring.
The discarded lyrics, like strewn blouses and accessories, aren’t inherently bad. They just didn’t fit like the ones I finally worked into the song. Some other combo really clicked.
I also write lyrics that never become a song at all, but like that shows-a-little-too-much-belly tank top I keep wishing will work for me, I hold on to them. Here are a few lyrics I tuck away, thinking someday a song will find them.
I am singing under the streetlight
I am crying like a cat
I am melting in the rainfall
Who’d have thought I’d go like that
You are a stroke of genius
A pen scratching tirelessly across the page
And I am the spotlight following your every word
Back and forth across the stage
When I get into this bed at night
The blankets are a comfort
By dawn I am suffocating
And the sun is burning my thoughts
I’ve even written entire songs, and for unknown reasons, they get misfiled or cached. While pulling out my old files and hook books to write this blog, I came across a lost song titled “Away.” Without any date written on the page, I immediately recalled the day I wrote it: Thanksgiving night, 2009, my first major holiday alone after my divorce. My then six-year-old was celebrating with my ex and his family. I was home alone. The song is rich with raw emotions. I immediately stopped writing and picked up my guitar to play it.
Imagine rummaging through old boxes in the garage and finding an old college t-shirt, the soft one you borrowed out of your roommate’s laundry the night you came out to her, the night you walked Oakwood Cemetery at some ungodly hour identifying tree species in the dark. That’s what it’s like to find a lost song.
Some lyrics are lost and some are found. Some wander like ghosts trying to settle their restless spirits. Others slump, overlapping each other on the floor. Meanwhile, they wait like little thrift store treasures, to be thoughtfully pondered for their colors and textures or gently hung back on their hangers, perhaps for some other day.
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