“I don’t do poetry.”
That’s what I keep saying. Every time I try, something rings inexplicably false, juvenile. Also, I’m a wordy fucker, and short form writing is hard.
“I don’t do poetry.”
But sometimes, I have so much to say, and I’m terrible at saying things directly. I have a tendency to backpedal or start arguing from an opposite viewpoint. My mind is scrambled, and there’s not a lot I can do about it when it comes to the broken line between my mind and my tongue. The way I get around it most of the time is from the side, by writing fiction, where I can hide in my characters–who sometimes don’t agree with me, so good luck figuring out which part’s me. (Trick question: it all comes from me, because all the thought-voices in my head are me, even if they don’t agree, but damn, it gets crowded and mean in here.)
But sometimes it’s not enough to come at something sideways. Sometimes I have too many thoughts all at once, with an intensity that can’t be assuaged through long form writing. Takes too darn long, go figure. In those events, I usually have to grab the nearest writing implement and furiously write down verse. Usually free verse in those situations, sometimes with the rhythm of slam poetry. But undeniably poetry.
Not necessarily good poetry. I told you. “I don’t do poetry.”
But sometimes I need it.
I came up with the goal to write twelve songs this year because of the same theory that drives NaNoWriMo: Stop talking about writing the novel and just write the novel.
I kept telling myself I needed to figure out how to write lyrics eventually. Since I was already jotting random snippets of lyrics down like crazy lately, driven to put something down that prose couldn’t touch, I figured I might as well start figuring out how to structure a song and figure out meter and rhymes. I’m an alpha-omega writer. I start at the beginning and finish at the end. Verse seems to grow outward from a single line or couplet. It’s not natural for me. But writing novels was once unnatural to me, and now I barely have to think about story, structure, or pacing.
It may take six years, the way it took with writing novels, before the song-writing feels less amateurish to me, before it feels less insincere–which is the deepest cut, because the inspiration is usually something terribly raw in its sincerity. But already, between jotting down lyrics, making a few attempts at Christmas songs (a few of which I actually like), and the first two entries in satisfying my 2018 song-writing goals, I notice improvement. “Vultures” was my first extended metaphor, which I’m proud of. And I really reined in my wordiness. And “Anything but a Diamond” is a bit of an aromantic love song, if that makes any sense.
I’m not going to get into the music-writing yet, although I’d like to tackle that in the future. Maybe that’ll be next year’s monthly assignment. In the meantime, I’ll reacquaint myself with the piano, after our period of estrangement. I took piano for twelve years, but around Year Ten, I developed terrible performance anxiety that makes playing in public impossible, and thus discouraged me from the ivories for another twelve years. Scales and chords should be like riding a bicycle, though, and already I’m noticing how songs are arranged based on that very premise.
If I’m really ambitious, I might try indie recording. I have no delusions of fame. It would mostly be for my own edification and enjoyment. One of those ‘why the hell not? I’m thirty fucking years old and really don’t care what anyone else thinks’ things. It would be really interesting to figure out all the technology and how to do it myself (because asking for outside help is so ten years ago, and I can’t afford it).
The other impetus for learning myself songwriting is that I’ve found it comes up in my fiction more often than I expected. Sometimes, free verse just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes I must rhyme, and I can’t get away with half-assing or improvising a poem.
But I really don’t do poetry.