Musical Insurgency
Volume 4 Book 2 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 13)

[ Book 4-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-3 ]

December 15 -17, 2004.
The World of The Song.
If you took a movie of what I've been doing for the past week, you would basically have a video of me sitting at computer terminal staring at the screen. That's the one thing about being a writer -- it's boring to watch someone write. And it's even more boring to read about the process of writing. But what the hell, it's my diary. It goes something like this:

"Okay, the first verse is working for me but I need to fix that rhyme..." [enter interminable hours of rhyme schemes] "...okay now it rhymes but the scansion is off..." [enter interminable hours of switching the words around to fix the scansion] "...okay now it rhymes and the scansion works but what do I do for the second verse?" [take a shower, wash a dish, get an idea. Start jotting ideas down for second verse. Arrange into some kind of order.] "Now I need to make that rhyme." [Get out rhyming dictionary. Work for hours and possibly days rearranging the words] "Okay, now some music..."

And that goes on repetitively. But that's only the beginning. Once I have my temp lyrics and melody, I start fussing with the piano part, entering it into the computer. Then I start singing to it. Then I add a bass part. Then I erase the piano and start over. Then I re-do the bass. Then I re-do the lead vocal.

It goes on like that. It's not unlike polishing a diamond (or a lead balloon). You become this obsessed thing.

You'll go to a movie, but it only distracts you a bit. Inside your head, like an earwig, The Song is front and center. You are rearranging it. Shuffling it. Testing out new rhymes. New lines. Different bass parts.

You eat, but THE SONG is ever-present.

You read a book to get away from it. BUT THE SONG I EVER-PRESENT.

People talk to you. But if they're looking closely, they can see your fingers drumming, replaying the piano, replaying the bass, rearranging the harmony, adding new parts. You are aware of them but you aren't really listening because you're in the World of The Song and they aren't.

Sometimes you feel you're completely insane because THE SONG THE SONG THE SONG never gives up. Never goes away. Never stops playing in an endless loop in your head. People say things to you but THE SONG is ever there.

FINALLY, after hundreds of hours. After slaving and slaving, you have climbed Mount Everest. You have conquered the World of The Song.

The demo is made. You can't think of anything else to do except just put it out there. You think to yourself, "Wait till they hear THIS one!"

You send it to your close circle of friends.

You wait for their reaction.

What? They have lives?

You watch AIM to see who's going to logon first so they can be the ones who'll tell you what an incredible genius you are. You're entire life has centered around THE SONG.

No one is logging in.

Time moves like a snail. The cats are yowling to be fed. But THE SONG.

If this were an Olympic event, the entire grandstand would be on its feet. They'd have seen you toil mile after mile. They would appreciate the fact that you have invested EVERYTHING into THE SONG.

You are mentally exhausted and maybe a little mentally unstable.

But The Song is done. It's demo'd.

You wait.

Finally, you start hearing feedback.

They're review of your Sisyphean effort? Your Herculean magnificently worked-on, studied over, sweated over work?

"It's okay."

"I didn't get it."

"I like your other stuff better."

Or the dreaded...

"Oh that? Yeah, it was nice."

And THAT, my friend, is the life of a songwriter.

Because no matter how much work I might put into a song, no matter how many long hours, the rewards are totally shitty in comparison to the long, long, long, endless word and note-crunching that you've been doing.

Why? Because, in the end, no matter what you do, you just have a dumb demo of yet another in a long line of millions of demos that get pumped out every single year.

Experienced songwriters learn that the moment you finish a demo, no matter how much you might feel you've invested your soul, your life, your heart, your EVERYTHING into it, it's still just another fucking demo. Easily dismissed in the lives of people who have other things to do than to worry about you and your (by now) utterly destroyed ego.

So you learn to do your work and then forget it. Move on.

The next day, you pick up your broken heart, after everyone has shrugged at you, picked at you, ignored you, you your start over again. And you re-enter the World of The Next Song which is really The Only Song that Exists Now. It becomes The Song.

And they wonder why writers go crazy.

The sad fact is it's just as easy and just as hard to write something bad as it is to write something good. When you're in the World of The Song, you cannot judge it. You must just proceed and finish it. If, after that long process, I've written something that does indeed suck -- and yes, it happens more often than not -- I do try my best to let it go. But you have no idea how my heart can break at that first sign of The Shrug. A private heartbreak that hurts like hell.

But the one thing that always gives me comfort: Entering the World of The Next Song.

This is my friend Michael. We went shopping this week.
He laughs at my demos when I track my voice over and over.
He says all he can see is the Steve Choir and the Steve Dancers.
Michael is evil.

I took a break from Today's Song and drove down to the South Bay where they are cutting tracks on the Sara Haze project. I've contributed lyrics and a few melodies to this but it's not really my project. For one thing Sara is only 15 so I don't even attempt to write like a 15 year old. Instead, my contribution has been to enter into the World of Sara and dig things out that we can turn into music. It's a fun exercise for me. And hopefully, we'll have a successful project when all is said and done. My involvement, though, is purely peripheral. A line here, an idea there, etc.

I got to the studio and they were already in progress, Sara, who is strikingly beautiful, is sitting on the couch with David going over some vocal parts. I took a few pics of her while I was there.

Sara Haze. Yes, she's only 15.

And she can sing, too.

The next day, Jimmy drove me down to USC Medical Center for my CT scan in prep for my eye surgery next month. We waited for about two hours before the technician came in, rolled me into the machine and finished (in about five minutes).

My cute technician.

Rolling Steve in.

No longer the long tunnel, this was fast and easy.

Then he starts typing.

Exiting the hospital from a speeding car!

The CT scan machine was much more comfortable this time around. I was starving, though, because they had told me not to eat. The doctor had told me I was supposed to drink something, that it would highlight certain muscles. But the tech guy said, "Nope. It's just a scan of your orbits." I tried to object and say that this was about the muscles, not the orbit, but I was dismissed.

I have a feeling there's been a miscommunication somewhere and I'm going to have to do this all over again.

[ Book 4-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-3 ]

© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.