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The "false dichotomy" that you either write for yourself or out of crass commercial considerations reveals another limiting belief about songwriting. That is, that somehow the height of artistry and authenticity in song-writing is about personal expression. It's a truism to say that a good song must find a universal relevance in telling a particular story. This can happen in many different ways. You can look at an event or feeling in your own life from a position of "songwriterly reflection" for example, and make it speak to others. Or you can look at outer events or other people's stories and make them personal to you.

But what excites me the most in songwriting is going for something different than either of these things. I like to create songs that are their own reality. Often these come from dreams or imaginary landscapes. Ann Lister's songs on mythological themes ("Icarus" for example) are a wonderful spin on this, because she has the knack of making mythical characters speak with a completely personal voice: like Shakespearean actors in smoking jackets and modern parlors.

At its best, this kind of song can come to you as if you were making yourself a channel for some being who has something to say to the world, and needs to find a cooperative "radio receiver" to send the beacon out. I still struggle with this, because my natural egomaniacal tendencies want to take all the credit for those songs. I can take credit for the work I've done to practice the formative processes, so that when inspiration comes all the preparatory work is done. But the song seeds themselves definitely come from Somewhere Else. I have been trying to make this kind of writing the focus of my work, and in this way I suppose I treat songwriting as part of my spiritual path. My spin on that is that spiritual paths are worth pursuing for the good of spirit itself and it's working in the world, not just for one's own enlightenment. Bliss seems to have had little to do with the whole shebang in my case, at least up till now.

 

Comment? Use the Tag "Personal, Commercial & Transpersonal"

 

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