In Thoughts on Writing

A few years ago, I began writing a song called “Church.”

I say “began writing” because it literally took me a couple years to finish it. The first verse and chorus came quickly. In an hour or so. The second verse, not so much. I had nothing. Zero. Zip. Bupkis. I even asked a co-writer to help me finish it, and she came up with nothing. There was a great void where the second verse should be.

And so the song found its way into my “Songs in Progress” file, and life moved on.

(Speaking of a “Songs in Progress” file – if you don’t have such a file, you should. Don’t ever throw away an unfinished song. You never know when the time will be right to complete it.)

Every few months or so, I revisit my “Songs in Progress” file, and a year or two later, I came back to “Church.” (The metaphor does not escape me.) The distance of time allowed me to look at the song with fresh eyes. The second verse suddenly fell into place without a lot of effort. The song was finished.

Or so I thought.

You should know, the song itself is kinda quirky – a ballad with thick chord changes and built-in modulations. The melody is rhythmic and angular. The verse lyrics are busy to the point of being conversation-like. The tempo fluctuates up and down. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Like I said – quirky.

But there was one line in particular – the penultimate line of the chorus – that was a little too quirky, too aloof, even by my own admittedly loose standards for what is acceptably quirky. And so, the rewrites began. Over the next year, I tweaked that one line at least a half dozen times. I kept coming back to the song, trying this line and that. I even tweaked it past the point of completion, and ended up coming back to a previous version when I finally settled on a “finished” version of the song.

And the line I ended up using violates one of my own Cardinal Laws of Writing, though subtly for sure.  So, there’s no guarantee the song is really finished, even now, I suppose.

Writing this song reaffirmed two axioms of songwriting:

1) The 80/20 Rule: We often spend 80% of the time writing 20% of the song.

2) Writing is Re-writing.

If you want to hear “Church” in all its demo glory, the song is available on PraiseCharts, here:  http://www.praisecharts.com/detail/arrangement/23397

Just know that with this song, there seems to be no end to the rewriting. So there could be another slightly different version of it in another year or two.

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