“All I try to do is write music that feels meaningful to me, that has commitment and passion behind it….If what I’m writing about is real, and if there’s emotion, then, hey, they’ll be someone who wants to hear it.” Bruce Springsteen
“Get at the heart of what is before you.” Paul Cezanne
Sometimes it helps to keep things simple. As writers we love to weave stories and sometimes, we can find ourselves caught in a web of our own making, moving farther and farther into artful, clever writing and farther and from the heart of what is before us. You know the feeling: You write something clear and true, then feel compelled to dress it up, to embellish, to over-write.
And as a reader, you know the result: How many times have you read a paragraph that seems so artfully constructed, you’re almost envious? How did the writer do that, you wonder? But then, you read it again and suddenly realize that it’s all art and little substance – that there’s little or no emotional energy animating it, that it doesn’t ring true for you?
Bruce to the rescue! Consider his direct, no-frills approach to songwriting:
Make it personal: When we write about what matters to us personally, what “feels meaningful,” we’re choosing a subject with emotional heft. And when we take this as our touchstone, we’re on solid ground, because if we care, then we can persuade our readers to care. And if we don’t care, why should they?
Bring commitment: When we are fully engaged, when we believe in what we’re doing, we commit ourselves to a course of action. And when we bring a sense of purpose and intention to the page, then we are showing up creatively – and the muses take note. Humor, tragedy, tragicomedy: whatever we’re writing, let’s be fully committed to it.
Bring passion: When we bring enthusiasm and joyful energy to the work we do, the work itself rewards us. Passion gives our work a sense of urgency and forward motion, it propels us to keep writing – and our readers to keep reading.
Keep it real: Let’s make sure we don’t fall into the “artful dodger” trap and sacrifice what’s authentic and honest to artfulness and artifice. Readers feel the difference!
Go for emotion: Let’s take Paul’s advice here, along with Bruce’s, and “get at the heart” of what is before us. If we can find and capture the beating heart of what we’re writing, then the reader will hear it on the page.
What’s before you today? Whatever it is, let’s find the heart of it as we all write on!