Friday, November 10, 2017

Creative Writing about One's Own Creative Writing Habit (Lying about Lying in Songs)

I'd be willing to bet that some famous writers out there in the world have said and been quoted for saying something along the lines of "creative writing is lying."  Although I'm too lazy to google it and tell you which ones and how they actually phrased something similar, it's my blog, and I can do - or not do - whatever the hell I want, because there's this thing called freedom of speech and I'm being creative.  I'm engaging in a form of creative writing with my blog here, which itself is loosely based on my experiences with another type of creative writing - that being songwriting.  There's no doubt I'm a lazy dude, and in the time I've taken to type this, I could've produced the exact quote and attribution, but you get the point. 

Songwriting might not always be lying, but a lot of the time, I'm guessing it is.  Even when writing about your own personal experiences, you change a few facts for the sake of the song.  To make it more appealing, to work in a necessary rhyme, to protect the identity of the true characters, etc., you lie.  You change names, dates, places, and plots as you let your imagination run wild.  There's a reason real life stories are not as good as those you read in books, see in movies, or hear in songs.  Their writers haven't let the truth get in the way of a good story.  I'm pretty sure Samuel Clemens said that, but don't quote me on it.

I wish I could make a living at it - be a pro liar.  Obviously, I'm not that smart.  I've also heard it said you have to be pretty smart to get away with lying a lot.  That's not to say the as-yet-undiscovered smart and skilled liars out there won't turn pro eventually.  There's no imminent danger of that for me, but one never knows for sure what the future may bring.  Entertainment is pretending for the sake of lifting the listener above the ordinary, charming them, enchanting them, delighting them, giving them hope, engaging their hearts and minds, inspiring them, getting them excited, etc.  To achieve these things, it helps when you take reality as a starting point, then embellish to taste.

We're taught as children to tell the truth.  As we get older we realize white lies are sometimes necessary, often learning this from our elders, then applying it to our advantage.   Some take it further, which I admit I've done more than I wish I would've.  Especially as a young adult, I used to lie about myself to impress people mostly.  I guess I didn't want them to know the real story, so I embellished to make myself out to be more interesting than I really was.  I still feel compelled from time to time to do this when in conversation, but try hard to refrain from it.  I'm embarrassed I got so carried away with lying to people when I was younger.  The urge is still there, for some inner reason that's hard for me to grasp entirely, but I am able to curb it pretty well, and save it for my songs I suppose.

You'll notice my web site has a page for every song I've released, and on each I type anywhere from a few sentences to a few paragraphs about the "behind the music" stuff - the real story of how the song came into existence, how it started, how it evolved.  Some are based on real events, some on dreams, some on overheard conversations, and when I remember, I put those songwriter's notes there in case anyone might be interested.  The inspiration, the motivation, the original idea, these are the important parts, then the craft part takes over to fill in a few blanks here and there, and steer the song toward completion.  If you're interested in learning more about songwriting by learning about how someone else like me approaches it and how I've arrived at songs, then this blog might interest you in the first place.   Then if that is the case, you're probably the type of person who would want to stream my songs, and possibly even while listening, read more about how it became a song, and what I was thinking about at the time. 

This blog is brutally honest, but even within these posts, I probably make myself out to be better at songwriting than I really am, making it seem easier than it really is, and slight lies along those lines, but if you find any of it interesting, you'll be even more interested in the songwriter notes for each song.  To me, it's fascinating how others write songs, and quite often my interpretation and perceived meaning is far from what the songwriter was thinking when I learn about their story behind the song.  So, if you don't mind the risk of disappointment, go for it.  The starting point would be the songs page (, on which you can click a link to any song info page to read my anecdotes.

Again, with those, I try to be brutally honest as well, but who knows, even my story behind the song stories might contain lies, but I assure you that like the posts in this blog, I'm doing my best to tell it like it is, in all its ugliness and boringness.  Subject to truth-stretching is the nature of made-up stuff like song lyrics, just as song meanings are made up by each listener to some extent.  Shared interpretations of art might contain real feelings or what you want others to think you feel.

All that being said and set aside for a moment, my songs are genuine, authentic, real, from the heart, and written with the best of intentions based on whatever was motivating me to write it at the time.  For the sake of each song, in the event of personal experiences, real names and places are sometimes changed to protect the innocent and all that. 

So, I do assume responsibility for the content of my songs, and the opinions may reflect my own, or those of the characters in the songs.  Since I made up the characters, even if based on real people I've run across, they might be my views, but might not.  My stories may reflect real events, may not, etc., but you know - any standard disclaimer might or might not apply, depending on things and stuff.

Keep doing something you like and you'll keep craving more time spent doing it.  Take a break from it and the heart grows fonder of it.  Habits become tough to break and when they do you nothing but good, how can you even argue it's a waste of time?  If you get a kick out of it, a little jolt of satisfaction when you complete a good one, why not keep chasing that feeling?  If writing songs for you is form of habitual lying that makes you feel good, then pathological songwriting is a healthy pursuit.  The icing on this cake?  Little white lies aside, when other people report back to you that they liked your song.  How sweet it is.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Keeper Ratios for Rewrites vs. Newwrites - Glass Half-Full Outlook Can Lead to Stockpile Mode!

Dear Diary, um, I mean imaginary readers of this blog,

I am hereby posting more information about the writing and recording of songs I've done lately which you may feel free to comment on after reading or discuss freely with anyone afterwards.

Unlike a lot of famous recording artist blogs, I write 100% of everything you read here myself, and it's typically not filled with a bunch of photos I took on my phone while traveling, etc.  Nor does it have a lot of wild stories from the road while doing gigs and tours.

Instead, it gives you honest insight into what is going on with me, and what I think about things, as it relates to my passion of writing and recording songs.

To remind everyone, this is a single-author blog that is not a non-profit think tank per se, but it is free and it covers topics related to and advocating for the culture of songwriting, do-it-yourself music recording, acoustic garage rock music and Scott Cooley album and song appreciation.

I'm not really out to advertise myself as an individual or artist with this blog, but rather, a way to communicate with those who like my music.  Did you know you can comment on any of these posts as well as contact me via email, phone, text, or social media messaging?

Yep, I can be contacted and am usually willing to interact with those who like my music and want to reach out to ask me stuff.  I can usually find something to socially relate to with most people, particularly if I already know they like my music and just are interested to know more about it or me.

I don't moderate the comments, and they are public, but there are private ways to contact me as well which are listed on the Contact page of  So, you can comment on other people's comments, and interact with other appreciators, etc.  If there is hateful or offensive stuff, I do have the ability to delete it, so if you see anything like that on here, let me know and I'll remove it ASAP.

I also occasionally use Twitter as a microblogging platform, and this blog's posts get fed there, so if you like that @scottcooley is the handle.

I'm on facebook too, but log into it even more rarely than this blog, which as you can see, is an average of maybe once every two months.You might get the idea that I don't have much to say if you only look at my post frequency numbers, but you'll see each post is fairly long, and dives fairly deeply and thoroughly, so once you read some posts, you'll see the opposite is true and I do have a lot to say, it's just that I don't post often.

So, I like to wait until I have something of a fair amount of quality and quantity before posting, which means I have to be compelled enough to start a post, then have enough to say that I continue until I have some sort of conclusion or point, and a way to relate it to my love of writing songs.

On to my recent ventures, which have been 1) more rewriting of old songs with mixed conversion ratios, and 2) new song writing spurred on by the rewriting.  Let me elaborate on #1 first:  Usually a song doesn't make the cut for a good reason and no amount of rewriting will boost it to a keeper level to make it "release-worthy," but it is possible for such a thing to happen.

I typically have to attempt rewriting about five borderline keepers before one will become better enough that it is vaulted above that threshold.  That's the approximate ratio.  Interestingly enough, it's about 1/2 of the keeper ratio of writing brand new songs, which is approximately 2/5 or 4/10...something close to that usually.  The other four become "don't waste time on again" songs.

You can look at that as discouraging and effort-wasting, or if you're like me, you can view it as a glass half-full scenario and be psyched you got that 1 K out of 5 tries because the 5 tries were good practice and you got another K you wouldn't have otherwise had, so it's always productive time spent the way I see it.

Then, the beauty of it all is that there's this boost of a bonus that K brings on - it gets you back into the creative flow again, and next thing you know, you're working on new ones again, which brings into play the 2/5 ratio.

Write 5 more, and you're going to end up with 3 keepers and 7 non-K's, but that's OK.  It's more than OK, it's great, because that's what you're trying to do.

When you get on a little creative roll like that, and let's say you write 5 new ones and get your two K's, that's just one spurt, and just an average ratio.  No matter how much you get writer's block droughts, and no matter how much you get afraid you'll never get a spurt again, you know that all you have to do is one thing:  go back through your non-K's a rewrite!

Sometimes you only need three or four short bursts of creative output like that and you're close to an album's worth of material.  Then you know you're close, and writing more to get to that 12 song count is not so daunting.

Once you're over it, you've surpassed the baker's dozen and get into stockpile K mode, you then have the luxury of getting more discriminating and replace a weaker K with a stronger one, improve the lineup if you will.

These are good situations to be in when you're a recording artist with a fan base whose expectations of more releases are based on your past output, and you know you can be consistent and deliver again.  This is precisely the situation I currently find myself in.  A good place to be, for sure.

So, if you're one of the surprisingly many now anonymous readers of this blog for whatever reasons, and one happens to be you're wanting to know if more music is on the way, I'm happy to report the answer is yes.  So, the only thing that could prevent me from releasing on my birthday in even-numbered years again, as has been my practice since the turn of the century, would be if I die between now and then, but the stockpile means potential for contingency plans just in case.

As I just told my friend Rich, it's good to have a couple albums "in the can" because you never know how long you'll live, and just like Yoko Ono and Courtney Love, my wife Lenore will be able to do posthumous releases ... to keep up the lifestyle!  😉

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why There's Not A Lot To Write About When Writing About Writing Songs

It's been over 6 months since I last posted a log (or would that be logged a post?) to this website, and I realize part of the reason is there's only so much to cover for the topic focus I've advertised on this Blog's  about page.  I am interested in writing songs, but I have never sought out other blogs where people who also like to write songs write about writing songs.  I don't really care how they do it or why they do it.  I know I like it, and I know how I do it, and I know why I like it, but I'm not sure others would be interested in any of this information. 

Occasionally, I like to write about my experiences with the craft.  I've expanded the subject matter to include recording music and trying to sell music.  I've also occasionally thrown in a review of recorded music I've purchased as a consumer or live music concerts I've attended and enjoyed.  Why anyone at all would care about what I think about any of these kinds of topics is beyond me.
Even so, I blog on without an audience.

For Starters, There's Not Much To Talk About Even When Asked in Conversation

If you can't think of much to say when asked about your experiences with the hobby/craft of songwriting and/or recording in person with people, then it's highly likely you won't be able to think of much to write about either.  Figuring out what people like to hear about is important, and that's what I'm hoping to get closer to by the end of this post.  What kind of music do you like?  That's always a fun conversation-starter, but as for songwriting, it's more of a chore.  That said, people do ask, and I do reply.

The Inevitable Questions

People who know I write and record songs ask about it from time to time.  They like to almost half-jokingly ask when the next release will be available.  They also ask if I still write and record, and whether or not I have any plans to perform live anywhere in front of an audience.  I had one relative ask for an additional copy of my Christmas covers CD recently. 

The Standard Replies

I always say yes, I still write songs, still record them, still release an album every two years on my birthday, still don't play live anywhere, still haven't sent a song to a famous artist for them to record yet...but that it remains a part of the fantasy.  Sometimes they leave it alone after my brief reply, but sometimes ask why I don't try to get one recorded, and then my reply to that is always that I haven't written one that is good enough yet.  Sometimes I go on to explain that even if I had a worthy song, I'd have to pay a lot of money to have pros record a proper demo of it in a real recording studio first before submitting it to artists, and I don't have the money.  Sometimes they say you should keep trying, sometimes they leave it alone and the conversation moves on to something totally unrelated.  When it does, I'm usually relieved.

Waning Interest

If my friends and family who do not write songs are satisfied with the above exchange, one might think fellow songwriters would want to talk about it longer, but that's not really the case either.  The few I've spoken with over the years are typically like me in that they've learned all they care to about the craft, and have settled in to a way they enjoy it, and don't particularly want to learn from hearing someone else's approach.  The interest wanes.  People who like boats, for example, can hang out and talk about boats for a long period of time and thoroughly enjoy it, as if they can't get enough of it.  Not so with songwriters, I've found.  Maybe it's common to any creative pursuit, or maybe it's the fact that it's typically a solitary pursuit.

Blog Awareness

So, I guess I'm typing my thoughts on the way to a conclusion here that even if I were to read up on and follow ways to increase the readership of a blog by targeting an audience of other songwriters, there may simply not be much interest.  As a musician and solo artist who releases albums, maybe the fans out there would want to read this.  I've read the autobiographies of Bob Dylan and Neil Young for example, because I was interested in their lives and how they came to be songwriters.  I suppose I would've been interested in knowing more about their approaches to writing songs if it had been in those books.  If they had blogs about their experiences with writing songs on their websites, I would read them.  It could be that there's simply not much information to share.  Neil says "wait for the muse to show up" and Bob remains mysterious about it as if he's been blessed from a higher power with the songs and as a result needs to tour a lot as a form of payback or gratitude.  Not much to go on there.  How one writes a great song is treated as somewhat of a trade secret or accident by most it would seem. 

Shifting Focus

So, my focus therefore should be more varied about me as a recording artist to appease those interested in me because they are fans and consumers who have bought my music and want to know more about the person who wrote and recorded the songs they liked and bought.  Rather than just talking about the songwriting part, that is.  Truth is, if you look back at the last few years of blog posts, I've already shifted the focus accordingly.  I exhausted all I knew about writing songs in just a few posts.

The Motivation

What gave me the idea is the story behind the song part that might wreck your interpretation, but might be really interesting, and if you want to know those, I provide them on the site.  So, one can't blog about what is essentially the same process for each song, and a paragraph or two explaining what motivated each song idea. 

You'll notice that from my albums page (, you can then click on an album to view links to subpages for each song.  From that starting point, select a song page and you'll see a paragraph or so explaining the "story behind the song" that I wrote about what I remembered happening when I wrote the song.  These may be interesting, or they may disappoint in the case that you'd already formed your own opinion of what the song meant to you when listening to it.  Fans derive their own meaning and envision what the writer's thought process might've been, and when learning what that writer was actually thinking about, may think less of the song as a result.

The Summary

If there are songs of mine you like, chances are the way I wrote them was not that exciting.  Likely I had a moment of inspiration for the main song idea, which brought about a chorus and title, and then I wrote verses that supported it by telling a bit of a story, and as I did this I made the number of lines in each verse match, and if there was a bridge it took a different perspective, and I probably looked up in an online rhyming dictionary a few of the rhymes.  Then I probably looked at the typed up song and read the lyrics back to myself in my head and a meter and dummy melody formed in my mind, and then from that I instinctively knew where the chord changes would be, then I picked a key good for my vocal range, and then possibly looked up on a chord family chart what chords were available in that key, then strummed a bit, and then sang while strumming, and then I had a song.  Usually if the idea was good, and the lyrics turned out well, and the singing of the melody was catchy, then there's a good song.  That's the songwriting process summary for me, and although there've been many an exception, there's not much else to say.  That's why this is a general solo artist blog, expanded to be about anything music-related, for anyone who likes me as an artist. 

The Mystery

The reason is that how a good song comes into existence has an indescribable element of magic to it.  Stars align, all cylinders simultaneously fire, and there's more pure accidental luck to it than craft.  There's only so much you can say about the happily automatic.  It's hit or miss, and if a few cylinders didn't fire, some sweat equity crafting might make up for it, but it's rare.  It's a mystery why and how good songs happen, but we music lovers are glad they do, and we know them when we hear them.  It's a matter of taste, and taste curation is what artists should be writing songs about, and what they should be blogging about too, I suppose.  Narrow focus is what the experts recommend to nail down what's appealing, but I'm too varied in what I write about and the style of songs I write to have a good shot at this type of thing.  I don't want to only write post-industrial shoe gaze alt-surf songs that are only about the things that type of music fan are into, let alone blog about the things that crowd are into, whatever those things may be.

Tales From The Road, Tales From The Studio, Causes

Famous major label artists and bands blog about their experiences on tour and recording albums in real recording studios that their fans apparently read.  I'm a fan of a lot of solo artists and bands, but I never seek out their blogs.  I don't really want to know about their adventures travelling from show to show or how their album is coming along, but that's just me.  I guess I don't care if they support certain causes either.  If they recommend music they like, however, I might be interested to know that.  Maybe I'll do more of that.  This blog post has allowed me to think harder about what might be interesting for people to read about, should I ever gain an audience for this blog.  If you're reading it, chances are my future blogs peaked your interest to read older posts, which means this blog post helped me focus on what you'd like and I gave it to you.  Hopefully, I've continued to do that with the music as well along the way.  Peace out, y'all.