Oslo is covered in snow and November will soon let December take over. More light, both from nature and in everybody's windows and gardens. I need light.
I am spending my days writing, thinking, singing, wondering if this next song is ever going to come together, knowing it will if I decide so, but doubting, pushing the work forward by a weird mix of stubbornness and curiosity. It's a hunt. I'm hunting, though if you saw me I might look like someone lost in the woods. Maybe I am. A lost hunter. At this stage, anyway.
I talk a lot with my students about the writing process. Rarely with you who listen to the music and come to my concerts, though. I don't get the chance that often. And, playing is more important when we meet. But I would like to share it with you here.
How do I begin writing? I collect ideas. It's almost like a hobby, collecting ideas. It's a process of its own, an ongoing activity which exists as though it was completely unaware of its importance in giving birth to words, notes, songs and albums. When I collect ideas I am not a hunter. I'm an observer. I listen, look, taste, smell and feel my surroundings (constantly it seems - a switch could have been useful from time to time). Observing is to be awake, alert and to grab hold of anything of interest when it floats by - interest meaning intuitive emotional or bodily response. It could be all sorts of things. It doesn't matter if it will never turn into a single useful idea ever. At this point, all that matters is the potential. The possibility. The vision of maybe.
My collection of ideas reminds me a little of my dad's garage. It was like stepping into a different world. A wonderful, adventurous world, filled up with stuff (far beyond what is expected to be found in a garage) that I could hardly name or use, but he definitely could, and though it looked like a mess, he would know - most of the time at least - where to find what he needed. It doesn't have to be nice and tidy in my collection. It has to be somewhere I can go and look around, some days I stay there for a long time, to notice, remember, rediscover, be inspired, and to pick something out that I can use.
I usually begin playing around with one of these ideas, it can be one word, two words, a phrase, a little melody I sing, a beat or a motif. If I like this idea, I don’t ask why - not yet. I just like it and cannot stop thinking about it. That’s all I need to know for now. So I write, sing, clap and add some chords - not necessarily in that order - until the idea has become a verse, a pattern, or some sort of structure that gives the part an identity. Something that makes me recognize it, and at the same time helps me see what it could become. The part is then about to go from an idea to a project.
There is no better feeling than being on the right track, it is almost better than finishing a song or an album. But sometimes, like today, I am doing neither. I am just this lost, stubborn and curious hunter struggling with changing the language in my lyric from English to Norwegian (because I know that is what I have to do) and that means a nearly finished song isn’t finished at all. It is not even clear to me what it is really about right now. I still have a little time to figure it out before picking up my son from school. And tomorrow, I will figure it out again.
With stubbornness and curiosity…