The River's Badge

Thursday, March 3, 2011

FAWM Aftermath



Another year, another FAWM. I said I wasn't going to do it, and I was really teetering as the calendar slipped into February. Remembering how hard I worked last year, I didn't think I had the stamina to do it again.

On the first weekend of FAWM, I thought, well, I'll just write lyrics. Easy enough. I wrote three sets (Are they called "sets"? And if so, why?) Well, that turned out to be really boring. You see, to me, a song isn't a "song" without a melody. Call me cuckoo. As clever as they may be, nobody wants to read lyrics (and by "nobody", I mean me).

Also, part of the fun of FAWM is having other writers comment on what you write. What's somebody going to say? "Nice. I like how all the lines seem to be about the same length." ??

So, I quickly turned those three sets into songs. Luckily, they were already metered properly, and I sort of had a melody for each in my head when I was writing them. I just basically had to find the right chords.

From there, I was pretty much committed (or should have been committed). I was stuck having to finish the stupid challenge. Because once I start something, unfortunately, I AM going to finish.

The problem, as I see it now, is that last year, I was excited about writing the 14 songs. This year, well, I just had to do it. This showed in the quality of my songs, or lack thereof.

So, what did I learn?

1. It's good to force oneself to write. Good things can come of it. Unfortunately, also bad things can come of it. The proper mindset is key.

2. I need a good co-writer. My melodies suck. Part of the issue is, I am forced to use the same chords a lot, since I don't actually know that many. This results in a lot of sameness and/or deadness.

3. Without being versed in music production, all my songs had to be labeled "acoustic folk", because it was just me and my guitar. This resulted in boring songs (see "sameness/deadness").

4. I got very few song comments this year, as opposed to last. This, I'm sure, is directly the result of numbers one through three above. However, it was rather disheartening. "Gee, I guess I'm really as bad as I thought I was. I was hoping I was wrong."

5. Just a slight criticism of FAWM (although, for the record, I am a big booster of the organization): It does tend to be rather cliquish, meaning that prolific forum posters get lots of song comments; and I'm just not a forum-poster kind of gal. I guess I could have posted a lot of "I agree!", just to boost my numbers. Also, there is a bias toward fully produced demos. This sort of goes against the stated purpose of FAWM, which is to encourage songwriting. But that's just human nature, I guess.

On the plus side (and really, there is a plus side):

1. My quirky songs seemed to turn out the best. Those were the ones that I dashed off in a couple of hours; the ones that came from somewhere God only knows; the ones that had no purpose; no meaning (deep or otherwise); they just were what they were. I didn't try to analyze them. I wrote them as a lark. This sort of ticks me off, in a way, because I have slaved over songs in the past ~ in fact, the best song I thought I ever wrote, I spent weeks writing and rewriting, and it turned out only two people even liked that song. Fine. See if I ever write a song I really like ever again.

2. I had a bad day one Friday in February. I was feeling pretty down; depressed. Not so down that I went and buried my head under the covers. I still realized that I had to try to keep up the pace, if I was going to finish the FAWM challenge. So, I sat and wrote some lines, and quietly sang them into the mic. And I got this comment from one of FAWM's most highly-regarded writers:

"Oh, beautiful... the simplicity of the performance really nails these words. Great stuff."

That, in a nutshell, made FAWM for me this year.

3. I can write funny songs (but I don't respect myself for it), and those are the ones that garner comments. I'm not saying I did that a lot. I wrote one from a line I heard my husband say, and I wrote another one as a result of a FAWM challenge. (I don't consider "quirky" the same as "funny". Quirky happens without trying; that's different).

So, to sum up, FAWM was both good and bad for me this year. I may go back and listen to those songs once more; I may not (depends on whether I've had a couple of drinks first). I may even, at some point, upload them to ReverbNation, since I created my own account last year for just that express purpose. But I may not (if I do, I will post a link).

But did I write any keepers? I don't think so. Last year, I wrote two. Well, good things tend to happen to me in odd-numbered years anyway, so next year (if I do it again!) is bound to be better.

P.S. Songwriters, what do you do with all the songs you write? Just keep 'em in a file somewhere? Maybe I could burn mine to CD and bury them in a time capsule. Then, one day, my kids will dig them up and say, wow, my mom sure wasted a bunch of time!

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