Songs about writing

“I am a rock, I am an i-i-island.” This line from Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock” keeps spinning in my head as I search for songs about writing. The song is about a guy seeking isolation from others to protect himself:

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

Poetic songwriter Paul Simon wrote it. He also wrote “A Poem on the Underground Wall,” about a young man waiting in the shadows for the underground to close, a colored crayon in his hand. When the last train has passed, he swiftly writes his four-letter poem on the tunnel wall.

Now from his pocket quick he flashes
The crayon on the wall he slashes
Deep upon the advertising
A single-worded poem comprised of four letters

And his heart is laughing, screaming, pounding
The poem across the tracks rebounding
Shadowed by the exit light
His legs take their ascending flight
To seek the breast of darkness and be suckled by the night, ooh

This is one of the songs I’ve selected for a planned blog post about songs with the theme of writing.

Another obvious choice is “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles. It’s essentially a pitch letter from an aspiring author to an editor. He desperately wants to become a paperback writer.

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear.

It’s a “dirty story of a dirty man,” 1000 pages long with a potential to grow:

It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few.
I’ll be writing more in a week or two.
I could make it longer if you like the style.
I can change it ’round.

A promise of good sales, and of course a return address:

If you really like it you can have the rights.
It could make a million for you overnight.
If you must return it you can send it here.

A few others:

There She Goes, My Beautiful World by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, about losing one’s muse and hit a writer’s block:

Well, me, I’m lying here, with nothing in my ears
Me, I’m lying here, with nothing in my ears
Me, I’m lying here, for what seems years
I’m just lying on my bed with nothing in my head

Everyday I Write the Book by Elvis Costello:

Everyday I write the book.
Chapter One: We didn’t really get along.
Chapter Two: I think I fell in love with you.
You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four Five and Six.

Hemingway’s Whiskey by Guy Clark, unknown to me until now:

You know it tough out there a good muse is hard to find
Living one word to the next and living one line at a time

I was delighted to discover Soltero and his I’ll Be a Writer:

I’ll be a writer when I finally go deaf
In the manner of whoever they say is the best
Committing to paper the chances I have missed
The girls I have loved
The dogs I have kissed

Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” is apparently about a frustrated writer. “I Be Bound to Write to You” by Muddy Waters is about writing letters. “The Battle of Evermore” by Led Zeppelin makes references to The Lord of the Rings.

And the list goes on…

WordPress Daily Prompt: Song

Aha! A light bulb moment.

In Donald Duck magazines, a light bulb flashes up above a character’s head when they get a brilliant idea. Theorists define an aha moment as “an instant at which the solution to a problem becomes clear.” Others of us simply say, “It just popped into my head.”

Aha moments come in all sizes. There are mind-changing moments, for instance when authoritarian leaders reveal their true nature and are stripped naked in front of the TV cameras of the world as people stop cheering them and start wondering, “Whatever did we see in them?”

There are other defining moments that bring people together during natural disasters, or during rescue missions to bring astronauts safely back to Earth or trapped miners back to the surface. These are moments that touch us and show us what we can be.

Most of all, there are people like Mandela and Tutu and King who have educated us with their words and made us better citizens.

Although not close to these proportions, I do have my moments. Take my writing, for example. When an article or a story suddenly falls into place as the last unexpected line leaps out of my fingertips and I know that the story is complete, there is an near-aha-experience. Maybe not of a light bulb magnitude, but I’m delighted and astonished every time it happens and I can’t stop smiling.

What was your most recent aha moment? What sparked it?

WordPress Daily Prompt: Glimmer

Always prepared

When a sentence like this pops into your head:

          In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,

you better have a napkin or notebook at hand. It might be the start of something luminous. You never know.

I’d got an enormous pile of exam papers […] and was marking school examinations in the summer time, which was very laborious, and unfortunately also boring. I remember picking up a paper and nearly gave it an extra mark, or extra five marks actually, because one page on this particular paper was left blank. Glorious! Nothing to read. So I scribbled on it, I can’t think why, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’.
— J.R.R. Tolkien in an interview with BBC in 1968

WordPress Daily Prompt: Luminescent


My mind ran a million miles an hour and the words tumbled out, as if drunk. I wrote like crazy until I … didn’t.

[…] he began to write now like a madman — as only a madman could write — driven by an insanity of sense and soul and feeling which he no longer could master or control […] The words were wrung out of him in a kind of bloody sweat, they poured out of his finger-tips, spat out of his snarling throat like writhing snakes; he wrote them with his heart, his brain, his sweat, his body; he wrote them with his blood, his spirit; they were wrenched out of the last secret source and substance of his life.
— Thomas Wolfe, “Of Time and the River”

WordPress Daily Prompt: Rush

Thwarter vs. thwartee

I want to write a poem, but my imagination thwarts me. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe my imagination is inspired by the late winter / early spring, with the yellow spring colors against the wintery white backdrop, and wants to express it but finds me unfocused. You cannot always tell the thwarter from the thwartee.

I think I’ll blame it on my imagination and just sit down with a cup of coffee and watch the hatching spring. Maybe look up the word “thwart” to double-check the meaning. Not the first time, WordPress, that I have to look up your suggested daily word. I try not to let it uh… thwart me.

WordPress Daily Prompt: Thwart

Tread softly on my dreams

When you are a penniless and lovesick poet with nothing but your dreams to offer your beloved, yank down the heaven and put it under her feet. Poets can do that. “Tread softly,” the poet says in this beautiful poem by William Butler Yeats.


Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

(William Butler Yeats, 1899)

Anthony Hopkins recites this poem in 84 Charing Cross Road, a little gem of a film based on the letters between American author Helene Hanff and Frank Doel at the antiquarian bookshop Marks & Co, 84 Charing Cross Road, London. Over the course of 20 years, starting in 1949, they exchanged letters but never met. The film is on my list of 25 favorite movies about writing. Starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.

With spring coming up in 1950, Helene asked Frank to send her a book of love poems, small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park. “No Keats or Shelley, send me poets who can make love without slobbering,” she wrote. Mission accomplished with Yeats.

WordPress Daily Prompt: Fabric