for writers and readers….
Writing lyrics is the pits. It’s like jumping for frogs, Fred. It’s the shits. It’s the bogs. It actually hurts. It comes in spurts, but few and far between. There is something obscene about the whole affair. Like crimes that rhyme. I hope this doesn’t last long. I’m actually scared. But it always does. Last long. To write a song. You hope to God there is something left. You are bereft. I’m going to stop this letter. It isn’t making things better. It’s like flogging a dead horse. Worse. It’s a hearse. A hearse of dead verse. Dead, Fred. Dead.
NICK CAVE answering a letter on The Red Hand Files January 2023 (Subscribe. Go on! You won’t regret it because of the language and the thoughts behind the language and the creativity and the kindness.)
Photo credit: Photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash
I can get that! It’s like writing a book, the scared bit. I”m like that every time I start to write. The feeling stays with me all the way through, even when I sign off on the final edit and send it back to the publisher.
Great to hear from you Danny. I guess the fear never goes away.
I read somewhere how Leonard Cohen wrote 150 draft versions of Hallelujah before he was satisfied he had the right lyrics. I’m sure it was principally doubt and fear that compelled him to right that many drafts.
I don’t write songs for the simple reason that dyslexia means I’ve never properly learned to note down music. If you get a tune in your head, the words happen to it automatically but if you can’t write it down, the whole lot is lost and a waste of time so I’ve given up.
Hail, fellow dyslexic and apologies for taking so long to respond. Making a slow recovery from a health problem that appeared out of the blue before Christmas. I think the doubt Nick Cave describes is probably pretty much universal whether you’re writing prose or poetry or lyrics. Although perhaps there is added tension for a musician who has to perform as well as create. I’m almost entirely devoid of musical talent (other than the ability to listen & enjoy) so haven’t had to deal with a tune in my head that I can’t keep hold of…must be frustrating
oh it is so very frustrating. I had lessons in piano, as well as music at school, and if allowed to play by ear could come out with tunes, mine or those I’d heard, but follow those crawling beetles on a stave I cannot do. Thank you!
hard to make the leap at times, I’m sure, no matter how talented you are
Or successful. Remember reading an interview with Paul Auster who talked about the (almost) crippling fear that that he wouldn’t be able to write another novel or if he did it wouldn’t be as good as the past. So sorry I’ve been silent for these last few weeks, was hit by a health problem in November and recovery has been slow and very, very tiring. But feeling better each day and it’s lovely to be writing again – even if it is only a few words here.
yes, I went to a writer’s conference and the opening speaker said ‘hello to the room full of imposters. or so we all think we are, no matter how accomplished.’ so right, it’s hard to get over that hump sometimes. sorry you’ve not been well and glad you’re working your way back toward better health
I hope your health problems are getting resolved; deepest sympathy and good wishes for continued improvement.