The Genesis of Creativity

Having taken on the challenge of writing a new political comedy song every week, as well as writing songs regularly for children’s music publishers, I am regularly confronted with the question of whence comes the kernel of inspiration. Or in less high-falutin’ terms, “Oh crap, what am I gonna write this week?” But that’s sort of the point of these regular challenges, seeing how we respond to the regularity. (Such as “Julie and Julia,” how a home-chef blogged about cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering French Cooking, and how it transformed her marriage and made her a media star, or those articles that pop up occasionally in women’s magazines about couples who decide to try having sex every day for a year, only none of them end up getting played by Amy Adams. But I digress”¦)

There are those who say inspiration flows from a higher power, like in the movie Amadeus where Salieri envies Mozart, who he thinks is basically taking dictation from a divine source. And others say there’s no such thing as pure inspiration, it’s mostly persistence and hard work. Most famous writers will advise their audiences to write what they know, and to write regularly. (When I was in middle school, our class got to attend a lecture by Ray Bradbury, who met with us afterwards, and he detailed his writing method, he got up every day, put his rear end in his chair, and made himself write ten pages. Sometimes the words flowed effortlessly and became the germ of a new novel, and sometimes he took several hours to write ten pages of “I hate writing.”)

So when it comes to political comedy songs, of course I start with perusing current events, but usually I still have to do the plant-the-tush-and-force-myself. Sometimes a meme or topic is trending too strongly to ignore, like the 2012 election’s “Binders Full of Women” or the recent flap about Paula Deen (so I at least have a subject matter). But every now and then, a line or a tune will simply pop into my head – not that I claim to be Mozartian with some sort of direct line to divine inspiration, but I do sometimes wonder where that comes from. And this started when I was a kid – in 6th grade, I accompanied Amy Wood and Lori D’Itri in the school talent show, singing the recent hit song “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” (Yeah, it was that long ago. Altho I skipped a grade so I was only 10. So I’m not that old.) Anyway, the sheet music listed other titles available from the publisher, including a title that cracked us all up, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” We thought that was really weird, and all of a sudden a tune and a lyric popped into my head:

(sung to a jaunty ragtime tune)

“I left my heart in San Francisco,

I left my lungs in Waikiki,

I left my legs in old New Mexico,

And now there’s nothing left of me!” That was the moment I decided to become a songwriter. (And someday it will make a terrific anecdote for a TV interview”¦)

I don’t have those moments very often, when a whole section of a song just materializes, but it’s wonderful when it happens. And this week, after reading a slew of articles about the combination of failed attempts at reasonable gun legislation, and the recent spate of state restrictions on abortion, the title and first few lines of this week’s song popped into my head. I imagine the combination of these two sensitive issues will prompt some pretty vehement responses (although so far, the angriest youTube comments I’ve gotten have also been the worst in terms of spelling and grammar, which makes them a little less ominous.)

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