Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Photo by Nicholas_T, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
"Anyone can get into a song, it takes a songwriter
to get out of one."

If (when) you find yourself up against the dreaded "curse of the second verse" not knowing how to proceed, what to say next, or where to go, a suggestion: "Take a left!" Get off the familiar road you're on and get yourself lost. If you're not lost once you've gotten lost, you may discover new things, and new ways to write about them, for, "A right road tends to find other right roads." If you get completely lost you can always turn around and go back where you started. Stephen Dunn offers this:

"Sometimes it's desirable, even necessary, to move without a compass, to get one's self into a little trouble. Insert a foreign detail. Say something you can't yet support, or even fully understand. In a sense to step out of your neighborhood."

A student of mine, Katha Harris, brought this first verse and chorus in:

Summer back in Texas it was hot
Driving down I-35
Headin' out to Lewisville Lake
Doin' anything just to feel alive
I saw him on the pier by the boats
And I could tell by the look in his eye
Like a July sky filled with fireworks
We were destined for just one night

Summertime on the water
A captain's son and my father's only daughter
The night breeze was warm
Then it was hot and gettin' hotter

Okay, she asked, now what? Does she write "Strawberry Wine" again? (She knew better: "A writer is someone for whom writing is harder to do than for most people.") I suggested she "Take a left!" After some hesitancy she grabbed the song by the horns and pulled hard to the left: "Okay, what if she's moved to the city and working in a bar?" After getting lost for a time on this new road (a "fortunate confusion") we discovered this:

Now I'm tendin' this bar in Chicago
And guess what the Midnight drug in
He had that same look in his eye
He said, "It's sure good to see you again"
And we talked about growin' up crazy
And we drank a few beers in his car
He pressed me hard up against him
I said, "I don't live very far"

City lights on the boulevard
Captain's son and my father's only daughter
The night breeze was warm
Then it was hot and gettin' hotter

This new road eventually wound it's way back through familiar territory and joined up with our first road at the Bridge:

Some books get better page after page
And wine gets sweeter with age
But first love fades
(Repeat Chorus One)

There are flaws and she's working them out, but what an interesting "turn" of events. So next time you find yourself "spinning your wheels" (okay, enough driving analogies) get off the beaten path and see what turns up. Take a good traveling companion with you, it can make the journey even more interesting.

Hear Katha Harris' "Summer Back In Texas"

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