Being blue, having the blues, whichever way you call it, one of the basic colors has become a symbol for sadness, bad thoughts, depression… Usually, it is something that stops you in your tracks, negative thoughts become overwhelming, and you can hardly do anything productive.
It is certainly something that whoever that has something to do with writing has, like everybody else, felt at some point or the other. But “feeling blue”, even when the problems that are troubling you are great, is something that can actually be turned into a personal advantage.
Again, music examples, and here the number that can be pointed out are quite extensive, if not limitless. You can start with Joni Mitchell’s simply titled, but deep “Blue”, any version of “Blue Monday”, whether it is the Fats Domino song or New Order’s excursion into electronics. If you want to get a bit more complicated you can get the way of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, or even as sophisticated as George Gershwin’s “ Rhapsody In Blue”. Even one band thought that they are so permanently ‘blue’ that the named themselves the Blue States.
And that’s only scratching the surface. We can only guess, but judging by the titles it could be an educated one, that the authors of all of the above had some ‘blue’ feelings when they wrote them, or, even more importantly, were simply at some point or other, inspired by them.
The number of literary works, lyrics, poems, whatever inspired by some sort of trouble or negative feelings, whether they have ‘blue’ in their title or not is probably even more extensive.
All that points to at least two things - not only can you use your negative thoughts and feelings, even depression as an element of inspiration that can produce good writing, but trying to write down your ‘blue states’ can actually be that positive click that can turn things around for you. It could mean reaching the idea that will make you realize how you can get out of a situation that seemingly has no exit.
As far as the soundtrack to that is concerned, you can be spoiled for choices, and that is a positive thing in itself, too!
Let’s put it this way, in the case of the Davide Bowie and Queen collaboration song “Under Pressure”, the personal score is 2:1. Or 1:2 to be more precise - I’m a big fan of Bowie but not that much of Queen. And particularly not being under pressure. As far as the song goes, it actually works. So maybe the score should be 2:2 after all.
Still, being under pressure as a writer, particularly during a prolonged period is certainly not one of my personal favorite situations, no matter what. The question though is can a writer produce good work under pressure (listening to the Queen/Bowie song or not)?
Sure, the answer can be yes, but with condition(s) attached. Hitting on your keyboard, pressing those mobile device buttons or its screen (with all the mistakes that come along that way), or using that good old-fashioned pen (with the accent on good) in a hurry can bring about something outstanding, or at least worth a read, but…
And that but(t) firmly relies on whether you had that story or the article brewing inside your head (and heart) for a while and at the moment you started committing it to some writer form or other it starts flowing out of you in a uniform manner, placing every word exactly where it should be. More or less will do fine too. You are going to give it at least one check, aren’t you?
But then, how many such good stories or threads you do have in your head as a truly formed whole at one time to be able to mime a speeding artificial intelligence? A few times, quite a number of times, but certainly not always.
So, you can certainly rely on the speed of your thought and the speed of your fingers, but it certainly is not going to be there always, nor will it be there all the time. And after all, pressure does get to everybody at some point or other. Even if you are a big fan of the Queen/Bowie collaboration.
I wonder whether Art Harris and Fred Jay knew when they wrote that a bit melodramatic ditty “What Am I Living For?” how many versions the song would get. Some great singers tackling it, no matter of the genre from Ray Charles and Conway Twitty to Van Morrison. There is, of course, a song of the same name by that musical chameleon and trickster Bonnie “Prince” Billy, but that is yet another story.
Ah, yes, another story. There’s the point of that ‘musical’ introduction to the writers daily life. A simple question there, and let’s not be as dramatic and ask if writing is what somebody is living for, but if you see yourself as a writer of some sort or other is is an integral part of your life that you cannot do without it?
I mean, there are thousands of jobs you can do because they bring in good money and of course, there is an array (certainly smaller than the number of jobs) of things you can do and do them well.
But then, do you feel some kind of emptiness, and that happens practically every day if you haven’t committed at least a few words to paper, a hard disk, mobile phone notepad…something?
Or, is that emptiness also there when you haven’t done a bit of research on the next idea that is circling between your ears, jotted down one or more concepts, or just read something that will at least bring you the enjoyments of somebody else’s good ideas and/or writing?
Ok, so some free moments or taking care of other daily business is there, but even then, does your urge to write permeate everything else you do including emotions towards other people you feel the need to see on paper or on the screen in front of you?
Sometimes though, that need truly becomes visible only when you do sit down and start writing. Then you start to realize what you have been missing all that time. And no, that time is not wasted, you can still get some good ideas from it and jot them down. And then you might draw out some good out of that Harris/Jay ditty, I was rambling about in the beginning, even that a bit too sweet Percy Sledge version that everybody likes so much.
No internet back in the late Sixties and early Seventies. To get informed about exciting (or not so exciting) new music you had to hear it somewhere, and albums were not such a cheap sport, you had to be choosy.
So the big record companies like Warner Brothers and CBS came up with an interesting concept - double album compilations selling for cheap. So WB came up with Loss Leaders series and CBS with its Rock series, the most popular one being Fill Your Head With Rock.
Where else would you then get a chance to hear New York Rock & Roll Ensemble’s Fields of Joy, or Miriam Makeba’s version of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”?
Of course, nowadays anybody can make a mixtape/disc/file (refer to Nick Hornby and the art of making a mixtape, his best writing ever), but even then, it also spoke about the taste of the curator. The WB Loss Leaders were so good because ‘a certain’ Barry Hanson, also known as Dr. Demento curated them.
And getting back to Hornby, and writers today in general, the question of making your own compilations, or should I say, newsletters, comes about.
As a writer, you certainly spend a lot of your time on research and come up every day with tens, if not more interesting articles that are at least interesting as a good read. These days the number of services where such articles are collected based on your choices is growing by the day. Why not use them?
Instead of writing tons of tedious pitches and promotional emails (tedious, both to you and the targeted readers), why not make your own curated newsletters?
I’m sure everybody will include their own writing, bit in combination with other interesting (or not so interesting) reads, it makes more sense and is much more easy to make comparisons.
It also gives a peek into your taste - not only all the interests you have, but what could be potentially expected from you as a writer. After all, this is all the stuff you read, like and have saved somewhere in one way or another. So why not use it? It could turn to your advantage.
Oh, by the way, if you run into any of those old comps, be sure to grab them!
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