Every writer imagines that every other writer at that very moment is composing with grace and efficiency, where words pour effortlessly from the pen or keyboard without hesitation. In this world, drafts are completed in no time.
But this is not the case. It’s hardly ever the case. For most of us, writing is intimidating. For Jana Hunter of Lower Dens, lyric writing is usually his least favorite part of the process. “It feels like toil,” he told me.
A fair amount of the songwriters I’ve interviewed extol the virtues of writing while hungover. Others talk about how marijuana helps their creativity. Still others credit sobriety with making them better thinkers. But few, like James, have openly advocated physical exercise as a means to boost creativity. He wants more songwriters to get out of the studio and into fresh air. He’s also sick of the idea that misery is an essential component to writing.
For his latest album Phoenix, David Bazan made a lot of phone calls. To himself.
Each day, rather than journaling, he’d use the voice memo on his phone for ten or fifteen minutes to talk to himself. These calls were a “meet and greet with myself.” And through them, he got to know himself better.
I was surprised when Courtney Barnett told me that she doesn’t like solitude when she writes. Almost all of the songwriters I’ve interviewed have told me that they need to be alone, for the simple reason that they can’t have any distractions. But when Barnett told me why she needs to be around the action, it made sense: how can you be a narrative storyteller if you write while facing a wall?
Marissa Nadler needsto write. It’s a therapeutic necessity: she uses it to process the events in her life. By her account, her best music happens when that need arises. But even if that need disappeared, Nadler would still be able to write because she’s so disciplined.