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Zoe Mulford: Postcards (Blog)

How to Not Write 14 Songs in 28 Days (Click Header for Full Entry)

Posted on March 4, 2010 with 4 comments

I heard about the February Album Writing Month (FAWM) from Vermont songwriter Phil Henry. It’s an online community of songwriters who challenge each other to write an entire album’s worth of songs during the shortest month of the year - 14 songs in 28 days.

It seemed like a good way either to set myself up for disappointment or to enable myself to spend a lot of time writing when I should be doing other work - but I signed on anyway.

I bought a new notebook. (Most endeavors start with a new notebook.) I set myself the task of exploring one hook every day. I decided I would try to depart from my usual patterns and write some things that I wouldn’t normally write. I envisioned hours spent cheerfully noodling with my keyboard, turning out skewed, wispy pop songs to be intoned by breathy-voiced little girls in dark eyeliner.

The notebook has an entry every day through February 9. This was a very nice string of days - I would start the day with creative play, develop ideas during my morning walk, pick up my instruments when I got home and usually come up with some piece of something. In the afternoon, energized and fully convinced of my right to call myself a musician, I would  sit down and work on tour booking.

What broke this streak?

1) Success. A semi-random writing exercise on February 4 turned into a massive post-apocalyptic musical novel called “Julia, Darling” which took over my brain for several days.

2) Failure. As soon as I had a version that started at the beginning and went through to the end, I played it through for B, who made several valid criticisms and said it was “soggy”. I now have to decide whether to invest the time in a rewrite or just toss the elements on the recycling pile and move on.

3) Activity. Between February 16 and 25, I had a photo-shoot, a rehearsal with a bass-player, and visits to 5 folk-clubs, one with an overnight stay. I also had the goal of getting my blog going.

4) Inactivity. Around February 23 my focus went out the window and I spent a string of days holed up with the radio on. Obsessive writing was replaced by obsessive knitting.

Final result: three draft songs, all written on the guitar and all sounding exactly like I wrote them. Also 5 gigs, one project proposal, 6 blog posts, one 14-inch striped pink arm-warmer, and a fluffy infant hat.


March 4, 2010

Well, that groundhog song is a keeper. But what do you do with ONE arm-warmer?

Bijan Parsia

March 4, 2010

Hmmm. I took it to see if there was something obvious to do and reading it again I think I think the lyrics are stronger than I remember the music.


Bijan Parsia

March 4, 2010

BTW, "massive post-apocalyptic musical novel" is an amazing description, but I don't think it describes the song as it is! I really want to hear/read the musical novel.

(It's clearly not novelic. For one, I think the refrain structure just precludes it being a novel.)

Bijan Parsia

March 4, 2010

Hey! It's not my fault it was soggy! It's Manchester! Things get soggy! But you being in Manchester is my fault! So it is my fault! Whee.