Okay, I've always felt funny calling myself a songwriter since my songs have never been published, except for two, "If Everyone Lived Like the Tree," which appeared as a poem in my second book, Writing Success Through Poetry, without any sheet music or link to a recording. The other song appears in my ebook, The Secret in the Wood, as sheet music for kid readers to play, to enhance the reader's experience of sharing the protagonist's emotions. I've performed "If Everyone Lived Like the Tree" at various assemblies, and have posted a recent video of such a performance on my Facebook Author Page. My daughter Lainey, a singer and actress, recorded the song from my book, "Dance of the Trees," with an accompanist on piano (Chase Pado), and it appears on my website as an audio file. But other than those songs, the only ones I've shared publicly have been within my religious community--spiritual songs, mainly--and tribute ballads at funerals. See why I've hesitated to call myself a songwriter?
Anyway, I've decided to start recording and adding my songs to my previously private Soundcloud page--even if they're mostly a cappella, rough versions--to force myself to take more seriously this gift that I've been given. I don't mean to sound arrogant when I say "gift"; on the contrary, I mean to sound humble, since the way my songs come to me is not something I consciously work at or even feel I can take credit for, as it really feels as though I'm channeling them from some distant muse. To clarify, I'm not calling myself a psychic, but my songwriting process is this: I'm hit by a tsunami of emotion, either painful or joyful or insightful, and suddenly I hear music playing in my head, and I jot down words as they flow out of my mouth along with the tune I'm hearing. Many of my songs have flown along with tears, rolling out of me as they drip onto the page, in many cases. Others have flown from me while traveling, either by car, train, or plane--there's something about traveling that sparks songwriting for me, along with grateful feelings and/or epiphanies about my small part in the vastness of this world. And some songs have grown out of pondering the emotions of others, via books I've read or movies I've seen, or even other songs that have moved me profoundly. Some I've adapted to fit my current novels-in-progress, hoping to use them to enhance my marketing efforts once those books are published.
I'd like to say that all of my writing comes to me as my songs do, but that's not true. I'm consciously thinking about these words, for instance, as I write them. I ponder, write, backspace, delete, add--just as I do when writing fiction. Even my poems don't always flow magically, but require reworking as I go. But my songs, they come from some other place in my creative spirit. I am now taking the risk of inviting you, my readers, into that place, by sharing some of my rough, mostly unaccompanied, vocal recordings. I have dozens of songs not yet uploaded to Soundcloud, still jotted on papers in my files and on cassette tapes, from years ago, and I will continue to add them to my Soundcloud page, because, well, it's time.
If you like my songs, you can leave comments here or on the Soundcloud page, and maybe your words will inspire me to get some of these professionally recorded. By the way, it costs you nothing to join Soundcloud, and it will open your ears to many new, undiscovered musicians. While you're on my page, check out my son's songs posted there, by Ian Lipson and/or Wistappear, his band.)
I will exhale loudly as I hit "Publish" for this post and declare myself a songwriter, even if only an amateur one.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
If the first line of your manuscript doesn't grab your reader, it's not the right first line. Readers don't have time to waste on false starts. Cut lines until you find the most compelling opening. Then start from there.
I once told an author-client to cut his first three chapters and start with the fourth. "That's where your story starts. The previous chapters are backstory, necessary to you, maybe, but not to the reader. Weave in the few details that the reader needs to know to understand certain plot points and restart from that great first line of chapter four."
My client was ticked off, let me tell you! "Just throw away all that work of the opening chapters? Do you know how many times I rewrote those? They were my most difficult chapters to revise!"
"And once you finally got those chapters done, the rest flowed much more easily, right?"
"Right! Only after all that initial set up was done!"
"And 'set up' is the operative word. You know how in a play script you read the stage directions, separate from the lines? Well, chapters one to three amount to stage directions that set up the play and the players for YOU, the director, who will use those stage directions to plan and direct the scenes. But your audience doesn't read or hear those stage directions; they merely absorb the essence of them that you infuse into the actions. All that your audience needs to see is the point at which the spotlight introduces the first action. Get it?"
He didn't get it, and I thought he would fire me...until a few weeks later. The one piece of advice he had taken from me was to set the work aside and take some time away, to freshen his perspective. Then he sent me a new manuscript, with a Post-It note that said, "Thanks," but not much more, while under that note was a much tighter manuscript, more than three chapters thinner.
What I got out of that experience--which has occurred numerous times in my book editing past: If we struggle to create certain chapters or lines, rather than pour them out of our minds, that's our Muse's hint that we should delete them. Immediately. Before we waste more time. Know when it flows. Redirect when the flow gets clogged.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
When I contemplate the power, necessity, and life-giving force of words, I think of water, which comprises most of our world and our bodies.
by Susan L. Lipson
Flow like rivers,
Rivers of rhythm surging,
Surging and burbling and pouring,
Pouring into oceans and lakes and streams,
Streams of thoughts and wishes and desires,
Desires shared by readers who immerse themselves and drink,
Drink their fill of rejuvenating, satiating lexical liquid,
Liquid literature swirling into open minds, the vessels of ideas,
Ideas represented by words that flow,
Flow like rhythmic rivers,
Rivers of words.
Built of closed minds,
Minds in perpetual drought and fear,
Fear the flooding of their foundations,
Foundations that cannot withstand the tides of change,
Change that flows through all,
All open to words,
Words that grow,