Song Writing: Inspiration – the anthropological approach

Last post I spoke about having a change of scene to jog you out of a writer’s block. In that post I touched upon a few ways we actually get ideas that we can use in our songs and words. If isolation is not your thing, and lets face it there’s only so many times you can dredge up the ravings of your own daemons, then you need to find somewhere public where you feel comfortable to be a fly on the wall. With eyes and ears open it should be quite easy to make a few observations, overhear a few words and uncover a gem that you can polish and turn into a song.

As a writer you shouldn’t be without a notebook, or it’s modern counterpart a phone/phablet. Personally I prefer paper and a pen, but a phone has the amazing convenience of being one of those items, along with key, wallet or handbag, that need to be ticket off mentally before we leave the house. A phone also has the benefit of having a voice memo function, so melodic ideas can be hummed and captured without the need of manuscript paper and the requisite education that can turn sound and rhythm into dots on a stave.

So, you are armed with your recording device, your pad, your pencil and now all you lack is inspiration. It’s time to leave the safe confines of your hermitage and mix with human life. If intoxicants are your thing, and you don’t have a prohibition from your doctor, you could head to the bar and perch yourself in a corner, taking in the ambience and keeping your ears peeled for snippets of conversation, observing interactions and relationships in their various stages of growth and decay and seeing what stories unfold inside your finely tuned writer’s consciousness.

If it’s not yet 5pm, or more likely if the tempting wiles of intoxication are a matter of concern to your physical and mental health, and it probably should be, there are more socially acceptable drugs to consume. A cup of coffee and some sugary pastry in a café’ or, for those seeking more elegant surrounds, a restaurant, could provide you with similar inspiration, and possibly more wholesome temptations that will keep you productive. Again your worst enemy is distraction from your devices, your frustration and newspapers and their ilk that seem to haunt such establishments in order to keep your prying eyes off the other clientele. Another, more insidious distraction is the ever-present aural pollution of Muzak, or worse still television, that seems to haunt public places these days. You may not get much inspiration for melodies if there is music blaring, but lyrical ideas will be in abundance, if you keep your eyes open for the things people do and your ears open for the shit they say to each other.

If you can’t stand the musical interference, there are places for interesting observation where muzak is frowned upon. Public transport and muzak free shopping centres, arcades and food halls are melting pots that hold an abundance of curious human specimens to observe and admire for the inspiration they exude. Observe peoples faces, imagine the emotions they are feeling, the characters that they play in the wider world. Mobile phone conversations are goldmines as well. Unless someone is torturing you whilst talking on speaker phone, the one sided nature of an overheard telephone conversation lets your imagination run wild. What is the other person saying? What is so important that the person is oblivious to broadcasting their suspicions on some mutual friend to the whole tram/train/bus.

I hope this gives you some ideas. Next week another methods for kick starting your inspiration.

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