I remember the first time I began to put together my little basement office. I had all of the major pieces…the desk the chair, the computer…but I was missing the little things. So it was with great delight that I made my list and ran off to the local Office Depot to find paper clips and pens and post-its to add to my collection of office supplies. I kept all the receipts for tax time and placed everything in neat little places, easily retrievable.
Nowadays, my office is a disaster area. I could care less about having an “In Tray”, there are piles of correspondence, lyric sheets, magazines, cheques and bills everywhere. Okay, so I’m not perfect.
There are some things that I can’t do without, however…I need them near me at all times, especially my songwriting “tools”!
1. First and foremost…lots of paper and pens! I keep a big red 3-ring binder with a thick supply of new lined paper in it…when I get in the lyric-writing mode, I don’t have to go far to find it, and a constant supply of pens too. I keep everything I write, which means for boxes of sheets of paper. I have some of the song lyrics I wrote when I was 15 years old! When the binder gets too full, I pull out the used papers, stick them all in a box, and refill the binder with more paper. I have at least 5 pens in various places, all within reach in case of a sudden brilliant idea :-), and usually a box of them in my desk somewhere.
2. I also keep a Hook Book, although I didn’t call it that until some other songwriters I know referred to it that way. A hook book is a small pad, essentially, that I carry with me whenever I’m away from home. Those ferry rides between Vancouver Island and the mainland are places when a line will just hit me. A must have!
3. I have a micro-cassette recorder that has saved a song more times that I care to remember. I’ve been lazy enough to assume that I’m going to remember something and two minutes later it’s gone! That recorder has tons of bits and pieces of music on it. I remember running off to the bathroom at work once, humming something into it. I’ve also gotten up in the middle of the night a few times, running downstairs to hum something into it. Once a few months back, I had to come up with a theme for a TV show and I was stuck! I decided to go for a walk and took the recorder with me, and sure enough, within a few blocks I had an idea. Just a quick glance around to see if anyone was looking…then I hummed it into the recorder and finished my walk with a smile on my face!
4. Probably the tool I’ve had the longest, as soon as I figured out how to use one, was a thesaurus. Undeniably, many songs would never have been finished without it. Sometimes I just have an essence of a thought or feeling I want to express and by looking up different words that come close to it, I will usually either find what I’m looking for, or get another idea as I’m searching. Even when I’m not stuck on anything in particular, I’ll look through it sometimes and get ideas…
5. Which brings me to the dictionary…nothing is more depressing than to figure out you’ve used a word the wrong way! Or, heaven forbid, sent a lyric sheet out with something and misspelled a word! Of course, if you’ve been using a word processor, there’s always spell check these days. But again, the process of just looking through a dictionary can bring you to places you’ve never thought of going, lyrically, before.
6. I don’t buy a lot of CD’s, but I do tend to listen over and over to the ones I do buy. If I’m enthralled with an artist or a song, I’ll obsess on it! And when I’m stuck for creative ideas, especially musically, my listening repertoire will always inspire.
7. Guitars…I have three of them, and a bass. Sometimes just changing guitars, going from acoustic to electric, or to my little Yamaha classical, will turn a song around for me. I will play my songs differently on different guitars! When it comes to arranging a song for recording, this can come in really handy! I want more guitars. Waahhh!!!
8. The Internet…so why the heck would I call that a tool? I can’t tell you how much the people I’ve met and the websites and newsgroups I’ve visited have inspired and encouraged me as a songwriter. The internet literally brought me out of the closet…you’d think that the opposite would have happened, but not for me! My website has attracted many songwriters over the last 4 years and because of it, my songs have had more exposure than I could ever imagine! BUT…the major boost for me has come from other writers. When you are flat up against a wall creatively speaking, chatting with another songwriter can ease it away. Someone who knows what you’re going through can help you get past anything that might be in your way. Your best friend can only stare at you helplessly, but another songwriter…that’s another story!
Okay, so there’s my small list. You might wonder why I don’t list songwriting books…I have only one! Songwriting books make me THINK too much. And for me, thinking can be a total disaster when I’m trying to write! Think about it :-)…then again, maybe you shouldn’t.