Friday, November 8, 2013

Find the Language

I snapped this photo quickly while waiting for the F Train. I think of this little girl a lot, how she listened and watched with such intensity.

As I might have mentioned, I have been searching for words, trying to be less fearful about putting down the wrong ones. Part of that search led to the discovery of Write Alm's Prompt-A-Day and, as you can see, it took me eight days this November, to sit down with one of the blogging prompts, one that seems so appropriate, it's almost as if it's laughing at and mocking me.

Find the language.

I wanted to yell at the mere suggestion. I'm trying.

It's music that often gets me there, that helps me fall in love with the way words attach to notes and fall from one to the other.

I turn to Sondheim for his playful skip and staccato stutter. There's always something neurotic and cerebral about his lyrics. A Little Priest, which is a song about what to do with a dead body and turning people into pies (yes, really), is particularly genius. I'll never get over how smart this song is. 

I've talked about Fiona Apple, how corporeal her music is, how it seems to rise up from inside her and manifest itself in a wrenching body. I love this amazing video of Hot Knife, which I know is getting around and exciting a lot of people. (That sounds kind of dirty but I don't know how else to explain it. It's just eliciting a strong reaction to her music.)  

I also like singers that tell stories. Josh Ritter comes to mind. Particularly his Girl In the War

There are also a few songs whose lyrics I just think are beautiful because they express something so deeply felt. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova and Bob Dylan's I'll Keep It With Mine are two.

I turn to these songs and artists a lot to remind me about language. They remind me what I wish I could say as beautifully, what I might want to say instead, and the rhythm of how to say it.


  1. Interesting that music helps you find the words!

    I need silence to find mine. I seek out a quiet place in my house (and sometimes that requires the use of noise-cancelling headphones).

    Putting words down in a first draft is the hardest for me. Knowing they're not great words. Knowing they're not the right words. But without them, they're can't be any future words, better words. How am I supposed to know what the right words are if I don't write the wrong ones first?

    I wrote a first draft of a first chapter today, and I am happy. Even if the words are wrong. :D

  2. Yes, I can definitely relate to your inclination to listen to musical theater for inspiration -- my personal go-to source of inspiration right now is Tom Kitt, who did the music for Next to Normal and High Fidelity. Listening to one of his songs usually helps to thaw the state of creative brain freeze I may be in. Sondheim is, of course, a good suggestion on that front as well.

  3. I agree that music can get you to the right frame of mind. Melissa, you write beautifully! I know this because I have read your lovely book (ms).