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"They only ever seem right after seeming just wrong for the longest time."

I wrote my first song when I was in the 4th grade. It was stupid and derivative and absurdly simple, but I'd just taken up playing a guitar and like everyone else in my generation who came into close contact with a guitar, I found that it magically turned me into an accomplished poet and brilliant social commentator, at least in my own mind. The trance quickly became self-reinforcing. The more songs I wrote, the more I wanted to write, with no saturation point visible or audible from within the spell. I thought myself doing very well. I grew up to "be" a musician or, more accurately, I grew up to be a song-righter. I was never that accomplished at playing the guitar, avoided covering others' tunes, and stayed close to my own songbook. I never was anything like a human jukebox but I always wrote songs.

My earliest songs seemed indescribably precious to me then. I've forgotten most of 'em. A few through the years, though, seemed to stick and became an alternate identity for me.
Whatever demeaning, ego-battering work I might engage in, I always knew that deep down inside, I was really a song-righter. I could carve spaces out of otherwise indistinguishable ether to leave an eternal construction behind. The process became more difficult as I accumulated my own book of greatest hits. Each new inspiration needed to traverse a minefield of already-dones to survive because I wanted to avoid writing the same song over and over and over again. I wanted new ones to be new, not the same old thing. However great the last one seemed, the next one could not replicate that success. What might qualify as both fresh enough and good enough? I never, ever knew. Most started as single phrase intuitions, hardly even inspiring, before evolving into some acceptable form. They each started as some form of wrong before finally righting themselves.

This morning, I stumbled upon what might prove to become the key to finishing the song I promised to write for The Muse last Christmas. Yea, eight months ago. Eight slinking months hearing the melody in my head and trying on lyric ideas using nonsense syllables, literally looking for not exactly the lost chord but one I had yet to find. I'd periodically pick up the guitar only to disappoint myself with my sudden inability to make the danged thing work. I could hear the missing chord change in my inner ear but not replicate the sound to my outer ear's satisfaction. The melody has over these months become my internal anthem. I hum it to myself in stressful times and also in joyous times, a sure sign that my next addition to my greatest hits was gestating.

Eight months of the most humbling kind of cluelessness promising everything and delivering much less than nothing, the whole enterprise just seemed so wrong until it finally starts to seem right or right-able. People ask whether I start with the words or the music and I find myself unable to answer with anything besides neither. They usually start with a felt sense, a tingle which might (or not) attract some shred of a melody or a snippet of a verse. These wrestle each other until they find some compromise both can live with, unfound chord change not withstanding, eventually. I suspect that the whole 'art' relies upon persistence. I've forgotten more inspirations than I've ever righted because they always seem so wrong at first. Not yet familiar, they seem too strange to ever thrive. I'm most likely to hide each beneath my little internal bushel basket until the flame dies. They only ever seem right after seeming just so wrong for the longest time.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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