Write song

Write Like Your Favorite Song

One of my all-time favorite things to do is to walk and listen to music.

And when walking involves a water view?? I’m extremely lucky to have one of Minneapolis’ ten thousand lakes merely two blocks away from my house, so I get out there as often as I can. 

I’ve already mentioned how inspiring a walk can be, and during our Summer of Creativity, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. But weather, water and walking?? Fuhgetaboutit.

I know many of us enjoy podcasts as we walk, or simply listening to the sounds of nature like the wind in the trees…but for me, nothing is more inspiring than whatever music I am into on that day.

Recently I rediscovered an old song I had forgotten about, and it’s been on repeat ever since. It came on as I was walking this morning, and I found myself really paying attention to everything about it. I started to think about how the songs we love make us FEEL specific ways–how powerful is that? And what if we harness those emotions that move us and think about how we can do that in our writing?  Fuhgetaboutit!

Now on any given day you will find me listening to Metallica, Tame Impala, David Bowie, Noisia, Nightwish…it’s a pretty eclectic mix.

Today however, I am going to write my own love letter to The Brothers Johnson’s Strawberry Letter #23. (written by Shuggie Otis.)

Here are some things that stand out to me about this song, and how I believe I could use the different aspects and emotions that I noticed and experienced as I think about the story I’m writing.

  • It’s unique. This song starts with a hook they use throughout the song, but in an entirely different key. How cool is that? And if you listen to it with headphones (highly recommended), the intro pans from one ear to the other. Then the song starts up in that different key, and you’re like, Oh. The bridge of the song comes in and it’s just this dreamy interlude that takes you away with it. There are elements all in and around this song that are unexpected. How can I get my readers hooked on something, but then turn it unexpectedly into something else? How can I bring them into my own imaginary world and let them get lost a bit? Remember, even if your story takes place in a non-fiction, ‘real’ world, wherever you are bringing your readers comes with a new perspective and your original way of experiencing it.
  • Those lyrics! I’m sure many of you have heard this song before (especially if you’re around my age, ahem), but have you ever really listened to the words? They are dreamy and unexpected, just like the song itself. OK, maybe they were a bit drug-induced, but I love how they spark my imagination and bring a sense of whimsy and dreaminess. They make me want to picture exactly what world they are painting, try to figure out what it means, and be there! And have you ever caught that the title talks about this 23rd letter, when in the song, he sings about ‘strawberry letter 22’? My first thought was that the person in this song-story knows there will be another letter coming…his love is so strong and will go on, like Celine Dion. How can I bring my readers into my dreamy world by talking about it with words and phrases they haven’t heard before, and/or by getting descriptive in a new and interesting way to show my story world? Can I throw my own sense of whimsy, so that they enjoy being there, and want more? Can I get them guessing and wanting to know what something really means by teasing at it, and not being too obvious right off the bat?
  • But that groove. This song all at once makes you want to chill, yet move your body with the beat. It has its own unique rhythm that pulls you in and along with it. How can I think about the pacing of my story, giving it a slow driving groove that doesn’t rush into things, but brings my readers along for the ride?

Whatever song you are listening to that really moves you on a certain day may have a completely different mood than this, and bring up entirely different ideas for you. And that’s great. At different points in our story, we will be creating different moods. The point is that, whatever song you are loving right now or at a certain moment is giving you all the feels, and it’s important to try to understand why. Because if you know why and what it is that gives YOU those feels, you can more easily convey that to others. And chances are, if you are feeling it, so is someone else–even if it’s a different song altogether.

There are so many ways to be inspired, aren’t there? And here’s something else that I really love about this song: I was curious what the composer was thinking with that mysterious title. To him, this song was his love letter to his girlfriend; strawberry letter 23. How inspiring and romantic is that?? I will leave you now with the groovy video of this amazing song–you’re welcome. 

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