The NSAI bulletin for
the Los Angeles area Workshop
Finding the Muse
by Seth Jackson
I never have writer’s block. Don’t think of that as a boast. I might
feel unproductive, uninspired, tired, depressed, or like I’m not coming
up with anything good. I just choose not to think of those times as “writer’s
block.” That label seems to give power to the feeling and makes it
bigger. I may not feel like writing at a given moment, but I know
my feelings can change from moment to moment or day to day. All it
takes is a burst of energy and/or inspiration.
If we aspire to be professional songwriters, we need to be able to write
new songs on a regular, consistent basis. Everyone has dry spells, but
we need to keep them as infrequent and as short a duration as possible
if we plan on doing this for a living. So, what to do?
Ironically, the goal of writing for a living can in and of itself become
the cause of a dry spell. Nothing can stifle creativity more easily than
the pressure to write a hit. So step one in recharging the creative battery
is to remember the reason for writing songs in the first place - songwriting
is supposed to be fun!
Now that some of the pressure is off, it’s time to look for inspiration,
and nothing inspires me like a good song idea. For me, a good song idea
is one that tickles my fancy for whatever reason. It comes in the form
of a clever twist of a phrase, a cool rhyme, a statement I want to make
to the world, a compelling story or situation, etc.
I find that the key to coming up with good song ideas is to be on the
lookout for them, even at times when I’m not sitting down to write. I like
to think that the creative force exists in the world at all times, and
that the more I keep the antenna out in search of it, the more I can tap
into that force.
Like many writers, I keep a “hook book” of song ideas I’ve come up with
for times when I need ideas. Still, I like to use the hook book as a last
resort. A brand new idea can be more exciting. But sometimes, I can be
inspired by going back to one of my old songs. Some of those songs were
good ideas that I couldn’t quite pull off at the time. Finally making those
old ideas work can also serve as a yardstick to measure my growth as a
September-October '99 Workshop Schedule
Thursday, September 9, 7:30-10:30pm - Songwriter Lineup
at Hallenbeck’s General Store, 5510 N. Cahuenga Blvd., N. Hollywood.
This monthly event is fast becoming one of the premier showcases for songwriters
in Los Angeles. This evening, the featured writer will be Jenny Yates (“Standing
Outside the Fire”). Performing in the round will be C.C. Ballou, James
Gray, Gary Floyd, Rebecca Harris, Treva Shelley, and Jon Strider. Craig
Lackey and Seth Jackson are your hosts. An open mic follows the scheduled
performances on a first-come, first-served basis.
Sunday, Sept. 12, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Schmooze or Lose.
It's not what you know, it's who you know. Or is it? Not only will
we discuss the theory of networking, but there will be hands-on practice
in the form of a fun, interactive role-play game. Back by popular demand.
Sunday, Sept. 26, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Group Song Critiques.
Critiquing songs and having our songs critiqued is one of the most valuable
ways to improve our current and future work. Receiving critiques helps
us to understand how our songs are coming across to impartial listeners.
Giving feedback to others helps us develop the skill to better refine our
own songs. Bring one song to perform live or on cassette, plus 20
copies of your lyric sheet. Lyrics can also be critiqued.
Sunday, October 10, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Focus on the
Music Business. We will discuss such topics as copyrights, contracts,
and publishing. Be there.
Thursday, October 14, 7:30-10:30pm - Songwriter Lineup at Hallenbeck’s.
Craig Lackey and Seth Jackson co-host, along with Cathy Carlson.
Sunday, October 24, 4-7pm at Musician’s Institute - Group Song Critiques.
Bring one song plus 20 copies of your lyric sheet.
Unless otherwise noted, workshops are held from 4-7p.m. at Musician's
Institute, 1655 McCadden Place, just off Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood.
Admission is free for NSAI members
and NAS members, $10 for non-members.
For more information, call Craig Lackey at (310)319-9454 or email Seth
Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seth Jackson’s rock band Loudspeaker has their CD “Speak Up!”
available on the Internet at www.mp3.com/loudspeaker
Tuesday, September 21, 8:00pm-11:30pm - Jody Siegel’s South Bay
Beat presents a songwriter showcase at The Tea House, 25318 Crenshaw Blbd.,
Torrance, CA, (310)326-5420. Featuring: Freebo, Randy Weeks, Harold Payne,
Maia Sharp, Mojo Monkeys, Danny Timms, Mark Shark, Warren Sellars, Arleen
Nicastro, Craig Lackey, Mel Harker, Larry Gardner.
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and Music Business Page.
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