My Creative Process

“My hope is that what I write, whether it’s a whole song or just a line or two, connects with you, and inspires, encourages or touches you in a special way.”

This Room

I have been married to my husband for almost 9 years and I still love thinking about the days when we first met and were falling in love.  Those were the days.  Talking for hours on the phone, telling my girlfriends how amazing he was, getting butterflies in my stomach when I’d see him, you know, all that young love stuff.  I love taking trips down memory lane, it reminds me of what first attracted me to him and made me realize he was the only one for me.

I love my husband so much more now than I did during those first few months, but as love matures and you get to know a person for a long period of time, it’s much easier to let your mind dwell more on their faults than their positive attributes.  A book called “The Love Dare” by Alex and Stephen Kendrick describes this exactly.  The authors use an illustration of there being two rooms in our minds that we can choose to spend time in.  The first is the “Appreciation Room” and the second is the “Depreciation Room”. Often during the new stages of a relationship we spend almost all our time in the “appreciation room” and then as the relationship progresses and we get more and more comfortable with each other, it’s easier to find ourselves in the second room.  Though both rooms always existed, we had more grace for the other person’s faults at the beginning when we were on our best behavior, trying to make good impressions for each other.  Now, years later, you’ve gotten to really know each other and sometimes it’s not always as easy to put up with each other’s quirks and habits.  Being intentional and choosing to dwell in the “Appreciation Room” helps to foster a relationship that grows in love rather than withers over time.  It doesn’t mean living in denial relative to the things that bother or irritate me, but rather deciding in my mind that it’s not helpful to our relationship to spend any time focusing on them.

A couple years ago, I was in the middle of reading “The Love Dare” and the concept of these two rooms in my mind was something I’d never thought about before.  I realized how much time I was spending being irriated or dissapointed with little things my husband would do or say, instead of choosing to focus on the considerable number of things he did well. I started imaging what my “appreciation room” might look like, and this lyric came to me:  “Judging from the cobwebs on the windows and dust on every shelf, it’s been a while and there’s no one to blame but myself… All I want to do is get back to the girl that you once knew…” I scratched out a few other lyric ideas, and while I loved the idea for a song, I just tucked it away in my journal with all my other song ideas.

A few months later I found myself sitting across the piano from writer/producer Chris Caswell for our very first co-writing session. (How I came to be working with Chris in the first place is a whole other story, but that will have to wait for another post!)  He asked me if I had any lyrics we could work from and as I flipped through my journal of half finished songs I came across those lyrics. I sang him the few lines I had and explained the full story behind the inspiration.  Right away he got where I was coming from and saw how it related to his relationships as well.  It was a magical experience as the song came together.  Within the next hour or so “This Room” was born.

“This Room” holds a special place in my heart, not only because it’s the first song Chris and I wrote together, but also because I feel that every time I sing it, I’m reminded and challenged once again to be intential in my thoughts.  May I never forget the reasons for writing it, nor the message it carries.  “All I want to do is get back to the girl that you once knew, where the fairytale can weather what the day to day can do. Our tomorrows need the yesterdays we spend, in this Room.”  (From “This Room”)

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Songwriting 101

When it comes to writing a song or coming up with song ideas, I find that an idea can come to me just about anywhere, anytime.  It doesn’t always happen when I’m sitting down with my guitar, but rather more times than not, song ideas come to me when it’s 2am and I’m fast asleep, or I’m driving in my car, or I’m taking a walk.  What I love about my writing process is that I’m never not in songwriting mode.  That’s to say, I’m not writing millions of songs every day or anything, but I’m always on the lookout for ideas of inspiration.  I may be driving somewhere and a melody just comes to me.  I then have to keep humming the melody to myself over and over until I get to a destination that allows me to quickly record it, so I can actually remember the melody later.  A melody not captured in the moment is sometimes lost forever, so I always try really hard to record it either into my computer or some other kind of recording device.  Doesn’t have to be fancy, but unless I do it right then and there, the inspiration may never come back to me exactly the same way again.  The same goes for lyrics.  I often find myself driving down the road and a line or two of lyrics will pop into my head.  I try to, as safely as possible, jot down those ideas when they come, because I may have a hard time remembering exactly how they went.  Regardless if they ever end up getting used in a song exactly as is, those organic ideas can often lead to many more ideas that eventually lead to a song.  No song has been created exactly the same way, and that’s what I love about it.

I keep a journal of song ideas and lyrics and I’m constantly jotting down a few lines here and there.  I rarely will have a whole song spill out all at once, it’s more like an ongoing process of compiling ideas and later sitting down and expanding on those ideas.  When I have some time set aside to write, I will go back through my journal and see what ideas jump out at me, or spark the most inspiration.  Without an inspired idea I’m hopeless.  I can come up with melodies much easier than writing down meaningful coherent lyrics.  That part of songwriting is much harder for me.  I don’t doubt the right words are in there somewhere, it’s just being patient enough with myself to not get frustrated before the lyrics have a chance to come out.  That’s an area I’m working on.  I think that’s why I like co-writing so much.  The process of co-writing is a bit different, and I’ll share more about that another time.

No matter how the creative process for a song comes about, I am surprised and joyously amazed with every song’s completion.  It is such an amazing feeling to sit back and play a song all the way through for the first time.  I usually want to immediatly share it with anyone who will listen (which is usually as many family members as I can wrangle!).  I liken it to having a baby and wanting everyone else to see how beautiful and amazing it is.  That may sound a little funny, but my songs really do feel like my babies in a way.  I hope they all grow up and live long happy lives, and bless as many along the way as possible!

“To find an answer or share a dream, like a friend it’s where I turn.  The past has been my teacher, while the future’s left to learn.  And there’ll be a song in the moment, written just for me…” -from “Song in the Moment

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These Are The Days

The other morning as I was walking down the hall, I could hear a sound coming from the kids’ room.  I carefully opened the door a crack and could see that Jack was still fast asleep, however Emma, my one year old, was sitting happily in her crib singing a sweet tune to herself.  My heart of course melted to hear her sweet voice making up words and trying out little melodies. It was so adorable.  Later that same day she started singing “Rock-a-by Baby” to my mom and me, and my mom looked at me and said, “that’s exactly what you used to do”.  It suddenly struck me with how it must be for my mom to watch my little girl doing some of the same things I did when I was that age.  It’s like my mom gets to be taken back in time to when I was a little girl, and re-live some of those memories.

As parents, we get front row seats to our children’s lives, and as we watch, we get to try and make as many memories as we can.  There’s just one problem; those moments go by so quickly!  Just when you think that your little baby will be happy to lay on a blanket forever and just stare up at you and smile and coo, all of a sudden you’re chasing him around the house!  It goes by so quickly, and a challenge I have as a mom is to make the most of the moments and mark them in some way so that I can preserve their memory.

I keep a journal of each of my kids and when they do something fun or new, I like to write it down (not that I’m perfect at it).  It’s so much fun to go back through those journals and read over their accomplishments and milestones.  I imagine one day when Jack and Emma are both much older, showing them their journals and telling them stories of all the fun things they did when they were little.  They probably won’t have memories from their first few years of life, so it’s my goal to help preserve some of those memories for them, and get to share them with my kids as they grow older.

My song “These Are The Days” came out of this thought that time is so fleeting, and my kids are doing new things every day.  I want to remember everything they are doing now, so that when they grow up and move out and aren’t around anymore (that seems impossible at this moment!) I enjoy remembering back to these moments, treasuring them forever.

The song also reflects upon how easy it is for us as parents to make all these plans and have all these expectations of our children (whether we do that consciously or not). In reality, our kids are going to have to chart their own path, and rather than spend a bunch of our time planning out their future, I need to be content with the here and now, and not worry too much about what is to come. If I do, I might miss the moments happening right before me.  I don’t know if that strikes a chord with any one else out there, but I am so glad for the reminder to just be and dwell with my kids.  Enjoy moments every day with your loved ones.  Try and be fully present with them when they are telling you stories about their day.  They know when you are fully paying attention to them, or when you’re just there in body and not in spirit.

“These are the days, I’ll look back to when I miss you.  Too soon they’ll be, sweet memories I’ll hold on to, but for now, I’ll hold you” -from “These Are The Days