Chris Uggen's Blog: writer's block?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

writer's block?

i was spinning my wheels today, when i heard neil young's mr. soul (actually the last bits of this version) and found enough traction to pull me out of the ditch. i'll try to abstract a few general lessons from the forty-year-old song and the experience:

1. change yer methodology:

an excerpt from the shakey biography offers a beautiful image of mr. young's writing process at the time. he's literally intimidated by the words, as good words are indeed quite powerful, but he somehow crafted tools to help pull those scary words out of himself:

I wrote that [Mr. Soul] on the floor in my little cabin. With a felt-tip pen. On the floor on newspapers in the bathroom...writing on newspapers. It's so easy and it looks so good. You write in black on top of it, and it's hidden because of the black-and-white background. The words can't come out and assert themselves that way. They lay in there, so you're not intimidated by seein' them so clearly.

that's about the most revealing description i've ever seen on writing: respect the words and experiment until you find a way to bring them to the surface.

2. change yer tuning:

a little tweak to the standard mode of presentation can also do wonders for your creativity. mr. young played mr. soul in double-drop-d tuning. turning both the high and low e-strings down a note seems to make a world of difference. dear prudence, masters of war, pachelbel's canon and all apologies are oft-cited examples of this particular tuning, but my favorite example is the drony floydian classic, fearless. once you've messed with drop-d and torqued the strings in other directions, keep bending your instrument until it makes sounds no one has heard before.

3. change yer format:

mr. soul sounds great as a do-it-yerself solo acoustic or as an all-out raver with the band. if you've got a minute and twelve seconds, check out how the buffalo springfield lads endure 1:12 of a smarmy host and (admittedly cool) steven stills posturing before busting out with a lip-synched mr. soul. the same piece can be performed solo or with your buddies -- whatever suits the occasion and yer mood.

4. change yer band:

if your bass player happens to be arrested before a performance, as occurred with buffalo springfield's bruce palmer shortly before their appearance on hollywood palace that night, just find a stool and a friend to help you out. i like the way they kept the newcomer's face off-camera, however, just so mr. palmer wouldn't feel his position had been usurped.

5. don't change yer soul:

despite all these tweaks and changes, the song still reflects the writer. now go get that newspaper and felt-tipped pen...


At 8:04 AM, Blogger Dave P. said...

Musical writer's block is incredibly frustrating.

So what are the sociological equivalents of Neil's tips?

At 8:45 AM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

oh yeah -- forgot to mention it. for me, at least, informal writing such as blogging can be a low-pressure equivalent to mr. young's practice of writing his tentative early ideas on newspaper.

At 4:11 AM, Blogger noman saleh said...

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At 10:29 AM, Blogger noman saleh said...

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At 10:30 AM, Blogger noman saleh said...

A very informative article, today students find very difficulties writing their dissertations, there are many sites which help students in such issues, i come across one such site, i would like to share it with your readers, i highly recommend this site, they have expert writers.



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