A Songwriter’s Manifesto: OR Poop Theory of Creativity

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In order to be a writer, you need to write.  Just as you would make art if you are an artist or take photos if you are photographer. You don’t need to be brilliant about it all the time. You just need to DO it all the time. The equation is basically as I heard Ellen Burstyn put it in an episode of the podcast Death, Sex & Money: “In order to become the noun, you must do the verb.”

I’ve read or watched interviews with songwriters, poets and journalist who have all said different versions of the same thing: “Write, Write, Write. And when you aren’t writing, write.”

Jack Hardy, who ran one of the longest running songwriting workshops in New York City put it bluntly in his Songwriting Manifesto: “Everything about writing is a process. It is a process that one must immerse oneself in to be good. We have to stop thinking of the song as a commodity. We have to stop getting hung up on the song itself, as an end in itself, and pursue the process. Young writers (or middle-aged writers) who come to our workshop for the first time are always looking for recognition of what they have already written. They are looking for validation. The first thing we do is humor them. Let them get it out of their system. “Play your greatest hit,” “play your latest song.” If we had the time we would say “play every song you’ve ever written.” Then we say, “Throw them all out. Start over.””

The writing process is different for everyone and a lot of times, an individual’s process can vary depending on how and when the inspiration strikes, what materials you have available to record said inspiration and so on. We develop our writing habits over time and tend to gravitate towards a method which gives us a high ratio of work/satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment.

For example, my songs are heavily rooted in story and metaphor. Lyrics are an important feature in my work and for that reason, I generally start my songs with words or phrases that strike me.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t written songs leading with the melody line or chord progression. That also happens. Especially when I’m practicing new fingering patterns or learning a new batch of chords. That being said, because my strengths lie in storytelling and lyrical work, I will most likely start with that.

The process of developing a piece can vary greatly and some songs take a little more work than others. Sometimes a song will come into the world struggling and will require a significant amount of time and attention. Other times, a song seems to write itself. Neither version is bad or wrong. Neither version makes any one writer better than another. There are some epic examples of writers who have written some beautiful pieces who come from each end of that room. I say “room” because I believe the process, as with anything else, lies on a spectrum and isn’t delineated. A room implies space to move in and out of a given process. I personally have experienced many versions of the process in my time as a songwriter. Which brings me to my personal theory of creativity.

Lately I have been comparing the creative process to (for lack of a better term) taking a poop. I’ve done this for a few reasons:

  1. It simply must be done. You can’t not do it.
  2. There are many ways it CAN be done.
  3. Once we’ve made a “move”. We move on. “Throw them all out. Start over.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       It Simply MUST be done: Creativity isn’t always something that you DO. Sometimes creativity happens TO you. You could be having a conversation and something strikes you as SO meaningful and SO poignant that you simply MUST locate a record making implement in order to not lose the creative thing that happened to you! This feeling is not unlike the feeling of needing to locate the facilities STAT!!                                                                                                                                                                                                              There are many ways it CAN be done: Other times you may feel a song coming on, but it’s more of a distant, low rumbling. You know it’s almost here, but you have time to find just the right place and time to give it your full attention.

Sometimes (if you’re really lucky) a song will basically fall out of you in one piece. No muss, no fuss. You may not even need to wipe. But you do anyway because you weren’t raised in a barn. And because process. And because gross.

With the more collicky songs, they require time, agonizing over thesauri, MANY used sheets of paper and exhaustion.

Like I said before, none of these variations are better than another. One of them may feel better than the other, but they both can be equally as rewarding. Be kind to yourself and your process. Give your pieces the proper time and attention they require to come into this world in whatever state they must. Besides, they HAVE to come out anyway. Because just as there is no “not pooping” if you’re a human. There is no “not writing” if you’re a writer.

Once we’ve made a “move”. We move on. Throw them all out. Start over.” – Jack Hardy”  Sometimes it’s hard not to take a moment and “look” at what we’ve just done. It’s also a part of the process to say “I just made that! That came out of ME!” What we sometimes struggle with is the decision to flush and move on. Get to the next project. Especially if we’ve just had an epic battle or if we are particularly proud of a certain piece. It can be daunting because it’s never certain which shape the next process will take and there is a very real possibility that it will be exhausting.  Or terrible.

But as writers, we must write. And flush and write. And write and flush. Because no matter how many times you repeat this process and finish or don’t finish a piece, the awesome thing is: There will always be another one on deck.

My dating history. . .

Otherwise known as my career history. I can’t help but draw analogies between the two. Having recently made yet another job switch, this area of my life is top of mind.

Anyone looking at my resume would say I’ve gotten around a bit – 8 months here; 10 months there; and a few long-term relationships thrown in. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. I’m just trying to find the right fit.

My first “real” job out of college was the one that taught me the most about the working world. Just like anyone’s first “real” relationship is the one where they’ve likely learned the most about dating. A lot of ups and downs – maybe a few more downs than ups because in both scenarios you’re young, naïve and have no idea what to expect.

I stuck with my first job for five years. That was too long, but I just didn’t have the confidence to know that I deserved better. I was underpaid, overworked and miserable. Right in line with this experience was my first relationship. There are too many parallels to even elaborate on, but I stayed in it for too long and put way more in than I got out.

Towards the end of the five-year stint, I finished grad school as well. That was very much a turning point for me. My confidence had grown both personally and professionally and knew it was time to make a change. I wanted to make a clean break for a new life and a new city.

To play it safe, I ended up staying with the same company, but they moved me to a new city with a completely new team and department. It was a fresh start as far as I was concerned, and I started to come out of my shell.

Two years in, I realized I was making too many excuses for why I was so unhappy there. It was the same company, just in different clothing.

After seven years, I decided I wanted to take a few months to figure out my next step. As expected, my next move was to a risky, start-up company that could not be more different. It was an extreme move and I realized very quickly that I went too far to the opposite side of the spectrum from the bureaucratic, corporate doldrums I had previously been stuck in.

I can’t say it was a wasted eight months. It was actually a huge confidence builder because I had nothing to lose. I’d say most men and women have had those short-lived relationships where you know it’s not a long-term thing, but it’s fun, you learn a bit about yourself and when the time comes, you move on.

From there, it was back to a bit more of a stable work environment. The honeymoon period lasted for about eighteen months. The company had been acquired by one of the largest corporations in the world and dealing with the day-to-day just became too hard. Neither your job nor your relationship should be that hard. I’m not saying in the “challenging” sense, I mean going through the motions of something you feel no passion about.

The next job I knew was a mistake the day I signed the offer. I consider it a rebound relationship. I just knew I wanted out of my last place and was looking to commit to anything to get the passion back.

When it came time to grow up, I had two job offers in front of me. One was the risky, sexy start-up – the guy with the motorcycle who will likely break your heart, but just maybe I can change him. The other job was the safe bet – an established company with a team I had worked with before.

Like most women who make terrible choices on occasion, I decided on the risky bet. Surprise, surprise. . .I got burned (aka down-sized). With my tail between my legs, I went back to the safe bet and they hired me immediately.

I thought we both wanted the same thing. I was looking for a long-term career move with high aspirations for growth and career succession. They were looking for someone to bring in and grow as the company grew.

Six months in, the first of many promises were broken. At twelve months in, more began to fall. At eighteen months, I gave an ultimatum. Actions speak louder than words and when it came time to make a true commitment, they flailed and I walked. With work as in relationships, it is not healthy to be strung along and drag things out.

I wasn’t necessarily cheating, but I needed to know what was out there when the last job started to deteriorate. I had my feelers out and was introduced to a company that seemed very promising. There was the usual back-and-forth when I first gave notice – they didn’t want me to go. . .things would change. Admittedly, I was torn, but ultimately made the move.

I am now a few months in at this latest job. The company is at a stage where it’s looking to establish itself and I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride. While I realize I may still be in the honeymoon phase, I think this could be the one.

*Any likeness to companies or men/women you might know is completely intentional.

Hillary’s Emails: An Origin Story

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“When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted, for convenience, to use my personal email account.”
 — Hillary Clinton, March 10, 2015
~~~~~~

To: State Department – IT Help Desk
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 21, 2009 11:04 am EDT

Subject: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry

Dear IT Help Desk:

It’s come to my attention that I will need your assistance to set up multiple email accounts on my BlackBerry device.

(It’s my first day on the job and I thought I’d take the initiative of asking for this myself, as I am someone who takes great initiative in getting things done. Like universal healthcare.)

At this time, I seek to keep my personal and professional emails separate but would prefer the convenience of a single device as I find having two mobile devices to be a burden.

Can your team please assist me in setting up my private email on the device?

Thanks in advance for your prompt response.

Regards,
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

~~~

To: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
From: State Department – IT Help Desk
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 21, 2009 11:12 am EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Hey there, Hil,

Welcome aboard! (Or should I say, welcome back. ;[))

I’ve assigned a case number to your request – please reference this number in any follow up emails. (Case #200456)
I’ll respond your case within 24 hours once I’ve had a chance to research how it’s done, since it’s been a few years since I’ve supported a device as old as you…rs.

BTW – have ya thought about getting an iPhone? They’re super-cool and much easier to set up for multiple email addresses, especially for non-techies.

Just a thought.

Peace out,

Justin
IT Help Desk – Support Analyst Level I

~~~
To: State Department – IT Help Desk
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
CC: Barak.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 23, 2009 8:15 am EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Dear Justin / IT Help Desk:

To follow up on my original request (Case #200456) – it’s been 48 hours and I’ve not gotten any response from your team.

Please have a rep call my office at (202) 555-1313 as soon as possible. Thank you.

Also, we are not actually friends, so I’d prefer if it you referred to me as Mrs. Clinton or Madame Secretary rather than using my first name or an abbreviation for it.

Regards,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
~~~

To: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
From: State Department – IT Help Desk
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 23, 2009 8:16 am EDT

Subject: (AUTO-REPLY) RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

To whom it may concern:

Help Desk support hours are between 9 am and 5 pm Central Time.
A support analyst will respond to you between those hours. Please call us if you have questions.

Very truly yours,

IT Help Desk

~~~
To: State Department – IT Help Desk
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 23, 2009 8:22 am EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Dear IT Help Desk:

Was that auto-reply really necessary? You know how I hate waste in government. Also, your message says to call but never once provided an actual phone number where we can reach your team.

And why are you on Central Time instead of Eastern Time? (My god, we’ve inherited such a mess….)

What I would really like is to get a response to email configuration question.

When can I expect that resolution?

Again, please have an analyst call my office to walk my staff through it – our phone number is (202) 555-1313.

Regards,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

~~~

To: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton
From: State Department – IT Help Desk
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 23, 2009 11:33 am EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Hiya Hillary,

Our call center is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin (go Packers!), so naturally we’re on Central Time.

But I’m totally thrilled to let you know that we’ve elevated the priority of your case (Case #200456) to be higher in our case queue.

Your case is now in position #981. (Vice President Biden’s occupying the first 980 requests — he’s asking us to “pipe in” all the “original Love Boat and Fantasy Island episodes” from the ’70s on “the YouTube.” We’re still researching what those are, actually, since none of us was born before 1979.)

As you can imagine, we are working as quickly as possible to resolve the cases in front of yours and will get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, please contact our help desk between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm CENTRAL TIME.

Cheers,

Kylie
IT Help Desk – Support Analyst Level I

~~~
To: State Department – IT Help Desk
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 23, 2009 11:42 am EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Dear Kylie:

Again with the first name stuff.
And I thought Justin was my IT support rep?

Regardless, I would like to escalate this request – I’m attempting to stay within government guidelines for handling emails and currently am carrying multiple mobile phones to handle my emails, which I find very inconvenient.

I’ve been told there’s a way around this inconvenience. I’ve tried Googling email set up on a BlackBerry, but the documentation I’ve found was written in 2003, which I’m told was the actual heydey of BlackBerry (apparently, the company isn’t doing so well now – I think we can all agree that’s the fault of the outgoing administration’s contribution to this world recession we’re in).

Also, I don’t have a phone number for the help desk – can you please provide it so that my staff can call to resolve this quickly? Thank you!

Or, if you have a link to a website with instructions, we can just do self-service. My goal is to get this resolved – hopefully you can appreciate that.

Regards,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

~~~

To: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
From: State Department – IT Help Desk
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 23, 2009 3:46 pm EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Hey there, Madame Hilary,

Hey, it’s me, Justin again. I heard you were asking for me as your rep. Awesome.

Anyway, I Googled around and found ya a link to some BlackBerry configuration stuff. Sorry, the latest I could find was from 2003 (you guys are on some seriously old hardware over there @State.)

Anyhoo, give it a try and let me know if it works and we’ll close our yer case.

http://www.google.com/blackberry4000/email_configuration/POP_IMAP_SETUP_PHONE/SECUREDocument123456.html

Peace out,

Justin
IT Help Desk – Support Analyst Level I

~~~
To: State Department – IT Help Desk
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
CC: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
January 23, 2009 4:02 pm EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Dear Justin:

The link didn’t work.
This is getting very frustrating.
Can you please call my staff at (202) 555-1313 to walk us through this?

Regards,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

~~~~
To: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton
From: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
CC: State Department – IT Help Desk
January 23, 2009 4:07 pm EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

HRC:

Do you mind taking me off the CC on this thread?

I’m sure you can figure out a way to negotiate a way to get your private and business emails conveniently.

Remember, I “hired” you for those amazing problem-solving skills of yours. 🙂 😉

~ B

~~~
To: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
CC: TheHllinator@yahoo.com
January 23, 2009 4:09 pm EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

Mr. President:

Just out of curiosity – have *you *ever tried filing a support request with our IT people? It’s maddening. I’m thinking I’ll have Bill call – if I can ever get a phone number, that is. He’s so much better with people than I am.

Anyway, I take it that you’ll be okay with whatever solution I come up with?

HRC

~~~
To: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
From: Barak.Obama@whitehouse.gov
CC: TheHllinator@yahoo.com
January 23, 2009 4:11 pm EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

No, I let Joe Biden handle the IT stuff – gotta give him something to do besides winking and smiling and that weird pointing thing he does. JK!

Seriously, yes – do whatever is necessary and just get ‘er done as we’ve got a few other big things to deal with…. 😉

BTW, have you seen the new iPhone? It’s so much easier to configure than those old BBs, especially for multiple email addresses. Even Joe figured it out.

~ B

PS: The Hillinator?

~~~
To: Barack.Obama@whitehouse.gov
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov
CC: TheHllinator@yahoo.com
January 23, 2009 4:17 pm EDT

Subject: RE: Configuring multiple email addresses on my BlackBerry (Case #200456)

B:

Ok, my team will problem-solve.

And I’m looking at the iPhone tonight after work – I hear it’s great with music and videos but the business features like email and calendars are a bit subpar.

HRC

PS: Yep, old college nickname. I was The Hillinator when Arnold was still entering body-building contests. Ha!

~~~
To: All State Department, All White House, All Congress. All HRC Staff
From: Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@clintonemail.com
CC: William.Bubba.Clinton@clintonemail.com, Chelsea.Clinton@clintonemail.com, Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov, TheHillinator@yahoo.com
January 28, 2009 10:37 am EDT

Subject: NEW EMAIL ADDRESS – Please update your address book

All:

Please be sure to update your contact lists and address books with my new official email address to be used for all official government correspondence, yoga information, and Chelsea’s wedding planning:

Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@clintonemail.com

Or alternately, for cat videos, chain letters, and Evites, please use:

TheHillinator@yahoo.com

In a dire emergency (I can’t think of what that would be), please use my government-issued email:

Hillary.Rodham.Clinton@state.gov

Regards,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

PS: Please do not share this email address with any members of Bill’s extended family. We all remember what happened the last time…

Classic MashUp

Welcome to daylight saving. That time of year when the days get longer, the temperature gets warmer and we reboot Silicon Valley Tales – The Extended Version. More and more of our authors (including myself) find themselves living outside of Silicon Valley but still have great experiences to share. To get us started, I’m going to share a mashed-up classic.

Richard Scarry

Some of my favorite childhood books were from Richard Scarry. (Not coincidentally because my cool, big-brother loved them.) If you were a US-born GenXer, you grew up with these classic books that showed you animal figures in perfect caricature of town people, country people or city people. Imagine my delight, when I saw a modern reboot of “Busy Town” by Ruben Bolling on the Tom The Dancing Bug website.

But, low-and-behold, it set-off a big debate about what should be included among my circle of friends. Here are ten things that came up.

  1. Too many suits—there should be more skinny jeans and hoodies
  2. Tesla; there needs to be a Tesla.
  3. The tech executive should be wearing a black oxford and black jeans.
  4. There should be a disproportionately priced modern house located downtown.
  5. While the “naked” cat is appreciated, it should really be taking a selfie,
  6. Everyone should be looking at a mobile device.
  7. Coffee should be more prominently featured
  8. “Content” made it, but no social network?
  9. The rage pundit should be doing a podcast.
  10. What, no food truck?

In reading some of the original comments, one person says, “being fresh on the job market, this is freakishly accurate.” But of all the comments, my favorite is “At least my hero, Lowly, (the worm) is still doing something real.” What do you think should be included?