While I feel more alive, in the moment and present in all my senses when my creative channel feels open, sometimes life's necessities or challenges make this vital capacity seem like a luxury.
In my 20's when I fully embraced songwriting for the first time, I could be anywhere--driving on a highway, reflecting on a conversation or waking up in the middle of the night and feel an impulse arise from within my heart. I would recognize the gift that was surfacing and I knew that when a song was beginning to come through, it was critical that I ground it, write it down, sing it, go to the piano and work with the impulse like a sculptor with a chunk of clay....I was also aware there was a window of time where I needed to capture this bit of inspiration before it was gone.
Scraps of paper were often my retrieval tools, or journals if I was lucky enough to be carrying one with me. I would try my best to remember emerging melodies, singing them over and over to myself until I could get myself home to the piano. Today, with an iPhone, it is much easier to capture the emerging fragments of a new song. I can sing a melody line into the iPhone, type lyrics into an e-mail to myself....and when I go to the piano, I can record my initial musings as I play.
However, it is just as important that I follow an impulse and work with it when it is fresh and arising. It seems the more fully I surrender to a new burst of inspiration, the easier it is for it to emerge and unfold.
I learned early on not to force it or push it. Inspiration has its own rhythm and timing. And the more receptive and surrendered I am, the better. I find when I am working with an emerging song, if I give it my full focus, the song will take me as far as it is ready to go. It may take several sittings over the course of a day or several days or even a week for the song to form fully enough for me to have the outline of its overall structure: verses, chorus, bridge, introduction, outro...
I am grateful that I have learned to be kind, gentle and patient with myself in the songwriting process. Sometimes a song comes to me in full--music and lyrics both at once. Sometimes a fragment is music or words. Closing my eyes, moving into a meditative inner space, where my mind is quiet and my breathing is deep may allow me to feel the emerging song more deeply in my body and heart. Making notes about what is emerging and then returning to a place of stillness and inner quiet, can feel quite magical and graceful. My observing self can recognize that a spark of inspiration is moving through me, and this feels joyful and worthy of gratitude. And at this point in my life, I am deeply grateful that I can live spaciously enough to be open to inspiration this way.
I have to respect the other kinds of work I have done in my life, and one can say that most everything I have done has come from a deep creative source. But for all the years that what it took to earn my living, raise a child, especially as a single mom, to care for the many responsibilities that all of us are faced with in our lives, a part of my deepest self felt numb, or perhaps buried and forgotten. When I did not tap into my creative channel, I wondered if I would ever be able to find it again.
I never liked to write music as homework assignments in college, because they were "production," not "inspiration." Writing from production might even yield a fine result. It just did not feel the same. So, part of me made a commitment to myself that I would let inspiration be my source, however long that too. And I accepted even years of dry spells, trusting that the well within would be there when the time came for me to tap back in.
One can say that when something is a part of you, it never goes away. You might not express those parts of you, but the core source of expression remains. It has been a 10 year process for me to "jump back on the source," and fully embrace my creative songwriting channel. For the past 5 years, I have given myself permission to change the landscape of my life so that I could be receptive and present as inspiration arose.
I find it fascinating when people ask me, "how do you have so much energy?" or "how do you do so many things?" My answer is "I love these things. They arise from within me. It is natural." When inspiration guides you, even big projects can be light lifting. For this I am grateful.