Today I returned to Sufi Café to continue writing, pouring my stream of consciousness onto eight pages of eight potential songs. Yesterday I succeeded in filling about half a page for each, writing as much as I could for one, then turning to a new page and sticking with it as long as inspiration was there. Yet I noticed that each spurt of ideas was shorter than the rest, and by this morning the ‘stream’ was closer to a trickle.
Interestingly, I realise I’m probably rather misdefining the concept of stream of consciousness writing. In the written tradition, it’s really more to do with a rambling interior monologue; the unfettered thoughts of a literary character. My point of reference (as the musos may have already guessed) comes from Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, the songs of which are often described as stream of consciousness, and Van describes as ‘having come right out’. He apparently worked with a tape recorder running, playing the guitar and improvising lyrics at great length. Although the lyrics do reflect the singer’s thoughts, they also deliver a succession of surrealist images.
This sounds better described as free writing, not that such labels matter a great deal. This is what I’ve been hoping to do, though unlike Van I can’t say I’ve managed to channel any good lyrics directly from the astral plane. To be honest, I haven’t relinquished enough control for this to be considered free writing. I did a lot of self-editing even before the pen had hit the page. Despite my resolutions, I’ve found myself chasing rhymes and this has been clogging up the flow.
Sufi Café’s rather haphazard library helped foster one tactic that did prove useful when momentum faltered. Here’s the hack: I grab a book off the nearest shelf and (provided it isn’t in Arabic) open it to a random page and scan through, writing down any words or phrases that take my fancy. Once I have a collection of about a dozen words I return to the songs, and see whether I can work any of them in anywhere. This usually has a knock-on effect, stimulating ideas for several more sentences. Another benefit is this artificial feeding in of vocabulary steers me away from the kind of imagery I reflexively go for and towards new avenues of metaphor I haven’t overused before in songwriting.
This is the result of the last two days work – not all full pages but loads there to develop and explore when it comes to transforming what I’ve written into proper song form. Tomorrow I head to the next stage; thinking about the music .