Songwriters are writers too.

Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson and The song writing process sounds familiar to writers—nine-tenths perspiration and one-tenth inspiration. Too bad more top writers won’t step down from their ivory towers and confab like this. Our profession could use this kind of cool. Maybe the decreasing chances of what we think of as “success” has led to a kind of over-protectiveness. A slyness or shyness about sharing any tiny crumb with our fellow travelers. Suzanne Vega says this about the writing process: “I was about to go into the studio and see what snakes came flying out of my mouth, so to speak. No snakes this time. Just one little verse of the song “Pale Cowboy.” It’s a very restrained verse, kind of formal-feeling, which fits its subject.

If your friend is an orchid then you are a rose.
Upright and thorny against your horizon.
Still solitary with all petals closed.
In the heat when the heart’s desert sun is arising.

I wrestled with myself for a while about whether the word “heat” should be “cool.” After all, flowers open in the warmth and stay closed in the coolness. And if the sun is arising in this person’s heart, then it is morning, and morning tends to be cool, not warm, so that’s why the petals are closed. Well, it will be hotter later and that’s when the petals will be open, probably. So there is an expectation set up in the song.”The rest of Suzanne’s story, and her website, gives a fascinating insight into the writing process. Worth having a look. And a listen.

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