I’m on 15 songs now.
I’m fully into “first draft” mode. Don’t look back. Get it all on the page. Make that page scream and hurt. Write 5 songs from scratch every day. As quickly as possible.
As Steven Pressfield says in “Do the Work”:
“One rule for first full working drafts: get them done ASAP.”
“Don’t worry about quality. Act, don’t reflect. Momentum is everything.”
“Get to THE END as if the devil himself were breathing down your neck and poking you in the butt with his pitchfork.”
“First draft” mode is a lot of fun. I leave Bank Street Arts having made something exist that didn’t exist before. And not just that — I can forget about today’s work. I don’t have to pick apart today’s work for another few weeks. Joy.
But it’s also terrifying. What if I get to the end of my first draft — I want to have written about 100 songs by then — and they’re all shit? Then what will I do?
Temptation rears its ugly head. I sit on the bus home, going past El Paso, going past Noodle Inn, going past that Polish restaurant whose name eludes me. I listen to Linda Ronstadt and wonder if I’ll ever be as good as her. Like it matters. And I wonder if I’ll be able to write a single word tomorrow.
So I try to keep this in mind: for today at least, and indeed at most, I did my job. Tomorrow can go fuck itself.
I talk a lot about Steven Pressfield. You might not know who he is. He wrote “The War of Art” which has changed my life every time I’ve read it.
The 3 act structure of that book is:
Act 1: There is a force called Resistance that pushes us away from doing what would be beneficial to ourselves and the world and towards doing anything but. Think of Resistance as “The Devil.”
Act 2: We can overcome Resistance, and it’s as simple and as difficult as “turning pro” — showing up every day and getting on with our work, whether it’s writing or dancing or caring for our children.
Act 3: When we adopt the attitude of the professional we set into motion a mystical and mysterious process where things just seem to fall into place, ideas are coming from nowhere, and our work is getting better and better.
Then he wrote “Do The Work.” It’s not a sequel — it’s more about guiding you through a project. Encouraging you, and preparing you mentally for the moment you inevitably enter the belly of the beast.
And the reality is that the Devil is breathing down your neck and poking you in the butt with his pitchfork.
The Devil is Resistance.
And in order to do anything worthwhile we have to keep him at bay. And for me, right now, that is writing shitloads of songs. I mean… a really stupid amount. Too many.
Who needs 100 songs? Nobody. But I know that if I keep myself busy doing that, then the Devil might keep his filthy hands off me.
I’m terrified of Resistance. I’ve spent my whole short life succumbing to it, with the odd time I accidentally beat it. With each year I get a little bit more aware, a little bit more able to keep the Devil at bay.
Except that he gets smarter each year too. Oh, well. It’s all just a ride anyway.