Latest From Rory: In Service of the Song: Along the Path

October 5th, 2009

In Service of the Song: Along the Path

Since about 90% of my writing is done with one or two other people, the following thoughts on the art of songwriting are from a co-writer’s perspective.

What does it mean to be in Service of the Song? The concept has followed me around from writer room to writer room for some time, and until recently I hadn’t been able to verbalize exactly what it meant. The idea occurred to me from the Three Musketeers story. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis were sworn into the service of King Louis of France. They pledged their complete fidelity to the King and to protection of the throne.

Instead of the Musketeers and their swords, today we have the writer and his pen, piano, or guitar. Your obligation to the craft is to allow no harm to come to the song. You must protect the integrity of the song, even if it means at the end of the day you go home, put your head down on a table and cry. You ego may be bruised, your inadequacies exposed, your insecurities uncovered.

I have felt that way many times. Maybe you have too. You sit down to write with someone, and the melody and/or lyric spill out of that other person so fast you can’t get the words down. You begin to wonder, what am I doing here? What ever made me think I was a songwriter?

But consider: your presence, your feedback, your ideas, not matter how bad, all go into the mix that make the song better. If you allow your insecurities to sabotage the process, you and your co-writers will be the poorer for it. Despite the pain, you have done your part to create a “safe place” where the most fragile of endeavors can take place – the act of creativity. If that means you have to get out of the way and let the song “happen,” so be it. You’ve practiced the craft. You’ve done what you needed to do. You’ve protected the song.

Today your responsibility as a writer may be the idea, tomorrow it may be the melody, the day after the lyric. Each writing situation has its task to be performed. You may be better at one than another, but you are good at one of these. So today wasn’t your strong point. Tomorrow may be. Tomorrow awaits.

P.S. More to come.


One Response to “In Service of the Song: Along the Path”

  1. Allyson Bourke Says:

    October 7th, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Hi, Dad:
    This was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen you write that WASN’T a song. How very true, and not just for songwriters, but for any type of writing. I am sharing this with my students. Thank you for your insight on creativity. You are a master.

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