When the Music’s Over: Blogging Through a Dry Spell

When the music’s over, yeah
When the music’s over
Turn out the lights

-The Doors

The more I write this blog, the more similarities I see between songwriting and blogging. They have converged, at least in my mind, into two sides of the same coin.

Both kinds of writing are, first and foremost, about self-expression. They are about taking an idea and presenting it in a way that is hopefully a little clever, a little insightful and a little universal. They are about leaving an impression; planting a line in the listener or reader’s mind, so he or she will buy your record or subscribe to your blog.

Mostly, they are both about being heard in a noisy world.

I’ve been a songwriter since the early 70’s, when some high school buddies of mine recorded one of my songs. I still remember where I was the first time I heard that song on the radio (at the public tennis courts in my hometown- someone called me to their car when they heard the DJ introduce the song).

I wrote songs throughout high school, then took a 4 year break as I focused on other things, only some of them study-related, during college.

I spent 3 years in Nashville after college and began writing and playing more while immersed in the great music scene that was the Nashville of the mid-80’s. I’ve written songs pretty consistently since then.

Except, of course, when I don’t.

Many years ago when we first started writing songs together, I told my friend and long-time writing partner, Ronnie Jeffrey, that I went through semi-regular dry spells. Periods of time during which no songs came to me. Times when I could sit with a pen or guitar in my hand for hours on end and not one line or melody would come to me. Usually, these spells last a few months. Sometimes they last a year.

I’ve been in one now for well over a year.

When I started blogging, I had so much to say. I didn’t think I would ever have to struggle to come up with a topic I wanted to address. For a long time, it wasn’t unusual for me to post 5-6 times a day. People talked back, which led to more conversation. I thought the well was bottomless.

But alas, it is not.

Lately, I have found that the same sort of dry spells happen in blogging too. I’ve been in one for a couple of weeks now. Normally, I do most of my writing at night and on the occasional weekend day when the kids are on a sleepover or otherwise not around to play with me. I write drafts of posts or ideas, which I finish up and publish at various times during the week. Lately, when I sit down to write I find that I have less to say than normal.

Phil Sim thinks this may be because the tech-related blogosphere has peaked. I have to admit that most of what Phil says makes sense to me. I still scour my reading list and the memetrackers for interesting conversations to join- I just haven’t felt as compelled to jump into the fray lately. Dave Winer used to be a sure-fix for something to write about. Lately, I’m as bored by his blogging as he is (no offense intended to Dave- my point is that I can understand why he’s about to stop blogging). Even my always dependable buddy Mathew Ingram seems to be struggling a little to find stuff to write about.

But somehow this feels a little familiar. As if I’ve faced the same wall before.

It feels amazingly like a songwriting dry spell. Ideas that lose steam. Draft posts unfinished. A vague apathy when I read something that normally would elicit an immediate response.

When you’re young and irresponsible, there are ways to kick-start yourself out of a dry spell. Read Carlos Castaneda, travel to India, change religions, drink mezcal. Don’t think for a minute that a musician’s inability to make music in middle age as good as the music he made in his 20’s is a coincidence. It’s not.

When a dry spell happens to a grown-up with responsibilities, about all you can do is ride it out. Write less so your quality doesn’t suffer too much. Wait for something or someone to kick start you into a flow of opinions and perspectives.

Every time I have a songwriting dry spell, I wonder if I’ve written my last song. Having been in one now for so long, I may have. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my blogging.

I want to want to write more. Someone throw me a rope. Pick a fight with me. Just do something to kick-start the conversation.

I hope the blogging dry spell will pass like the prior songwriting ones did.

In the meantime, all I can do is ride it out. And wait.