Collaborative Lyric Writing: Sometimes a Sprint, Sometimes a Long Haul

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Hello and Happy New Week!

I'm in a celebratory mood today. For one thing, Kevin and I got engaged last week, and that makes me very, very HAPPY!

In addition to that exciting milestone, we recently finished writing a new song called "My Butterfly". Clocking in at roughly 3 minutes of music and 200 words of lyrics, this particular song took us two years to complete. (Fortunately, they don't all take that long. And then again, some take longer.)

Why in the world does it take so long? you might ask. (As we often do, in the more melodramatic moments of the creative process). I don't know, is the truest answer I can give you. The process is almost predictably unpredictable. But I can tell you how this song came to be, and share with you what we've learned from sticking with it.

"My Butterfly" began one night two years or so back, when Kevin put his capo up high on the neck of his guitar and liked the sound. He strummed away and hummed a bit of improvised melody, but the only words he "captured" that night were, "she wakes" and "my butterfly".

Months went by, and Kevin returned to the song on occasion and tried a few additional words here and there, but nothing much more grew from it. He played the melody for me, and I liked it immediately, and we both assumed it would be about his daughter, Chloe, as written from a father's perspective.

And this, fellow creatives, is the very kind of assumption that can hamstring a writer for months! And it did!! Because the song wanted to be something else, and we couldn't see that until we let it go.

In early January 2013, we dedicated a Saturday to wrangling with the lyrics to this song. It was an epic head-scratching event that took an inordinate amount of time, energy, and patience. We argued over each article, auditioned multiple protagonists, and even got misty-eyed with their various moods, but we finally cried "Uncle!" at two in the morning. At that point we had a dozen pages of chicken scratch to show for our efforts, but no firm decisions. For the time being, we were beat.

Even so, as often happens to me on the heels of an intense creative work session, my brain just couldn't stop chewing away at it. I barely slept that night, and the few dreams I managed to have were about the darned lyrics. It was exhausting and uncomfortable. Perhaps that's why I pointedly ignored the item "revisit Butterfly lyrics" on my To-Do list for the next month. I wanted to sleep peacefully at night.

Nonetheless, we had already set aside another day for lyric-writing in February, so we returned to those pages of chicken scratch collectively called "My Butterfly". What struck us on Round 2 was: a) just how much work we had already done, and b) how much more work was still required to make a useable draft.

About eight hours and a zillion sing-throughs later, we finally came to a resting place with it. While it was not the song we thought it would be two years (or even two weeks) ago, it was basically the only song that it would let us let it be. When we step back now and just listen to it, it feels more not-ours than ours, but we also have a hard time singing all the way through it without getting choked up. The experience is not unlike looking at our own kids... Can any of you parents out there relate?

As Picasso wisely said, "An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought." I think he meant to warn us not to hold too tightly to our creations -- we just have to let them be what they will be, which is harder than it sounds.

In closing, I hope you will keep creating in your own time and way -- netting something unknown and unique from somewhere inside your soul. Because when the labor pains have subsided, and you're left holding a tiny spark of your own creation, it is clear that it is magic, and it is worth it.

With warm wishes,

Deanna

 

My Butterfly

Verse 1:
She wakes, scrambles eggs and smoothes the bed
She laughs, as I yawn and scratch my head
She slides the brand-new princess comb through the knots in my hair
She holds my hand while we walk there.

First day, screams and spit balls fill the air
I cling, but she nods and I climb the stairs
She waves, til the schoolbus drives away, disappears
then sings a song to quiet her fears:

Chorus:
Spread your wings and fly
Outstretched to the sky
Spread your wings and fly...
(whistle)
My butterfly
My butterfly

Verse 2:
Ten years, then another ten go by
And I moved, found a job and found a guy
I call, with a spring in my step, tear in my eye
”Mom, we set the date for July.”

She brings, somethin’ old and somethin’ blue,
We wait, with an hour left and nothing left to do,
I’ve got a stomach full of big butterflies...
She holds my hand and looks in my eyes,

And she says:
(Chorus)
Spread your wings and fly
Outstretched to the sky
Spread your wings and fly...
(whistle)
My butterfly
My butterfly

(“Doo-doo-doo” Bridge)

Verse 3:
She takes her grandkids’ pictures off the wall
On her last day, she cleans her desk and walks down the hall
Looks both ways, wonders what to do now, what happens next
When she asks, I know just what to suggest,

I say:
(Chorus)
Spread your wings and fly
Outstretched to the sky
Spread your wings and fly...
Spread your wings and fly
Outstretched to the sky
Spread your wings and fly...
My butterfly
Butterfly.

Copyright 2013
— Music & Lyrics by The Jinxes
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  • We are an indie folk/pop duo. We are writers. We are a creative team. Our new EP is out!