Looking for a quixotic creative endeavor?
Own a kazoo?
Well, Bunky, have I got a proposition for you.
February, it turns out, is Album Writing Month. It says so right at fawm.org, a website that challenges participants to write 14 new songs in 28 days. (Why the tunesmithing has to stop for Leap Day, I don’t know.)
Apparently, you can also use the site to find others to collaborate with. Perhaps the next Bernie Taupin and Elton John will make each other’s cyberacquaintance over the coming weeks.
The idea here — like that of the more popular National Novel Writing Month, in November — is that too often we wait for fully formed inspiration to arrive before we start a creative project, and when the flame doesn’t seize us, we never get started.
FAWM and NaNoWriMo suggest that the biggest step is often just getting moving, and if we commit ourselves within a framework of both discipline and support, we can get where we want to go in a month — or, at very least, have something we enjoy and can be proud of completing.
Cynics will tell you that much of what comes out of NaNoWriMo is unreadable by anyone other than its creator. People tend to hyperinflate their word counts to reach the goal, or turn to zombie invasions and UFO landings when they run out of plot. Whether it’s worth staying up late for a month to complete 55,000 words of dumpster fire is in the eye of the beholder; to me it seems questionable at best.
Album Writing Month seems cut from much the same cloth, and its results seem likely to be similar for most people.
And yet — while I won’t be doing it myself — it impresses me more favorably than NaNoWriMo.
Maybe that’s because simple songs can be good songs, and regressing to a few chords and an emotion — as one is bound to do when one’s trick bag is empty — can do wonders.
Can a beginner who knows two chords produce better, more gripping art than a beginner who knows nothing about structuring a novel? Yeah, I’d go along with that.
Spur-of-the-moment songwriting can be marvelously absurd, too, and I’ve always dug the absurd.
Not the cute, nor the twee, nor the novel or shallow. The absurd, the unhinged, the dada, that which speaks other languages and occupies other realities while totally convinced of its own worth and logic — there’s the glint in the sapphire.
I wouldn’t read somebody’s 50,000-word Civil War epic turned zombiefest, but I’d listen to “Surfin’ Bird,” or “Bo Diddley,” or something much like that. They’re gonzo, they ride a wave, and they don’t overstay their welcome.
Not anyone can toss off something berserk, and those who can can’t do it on command. But when it happens, it’s above and beyond.
And, if you give enough people enough $150 acoustic guitars, it’s bound to happen every now and again, in a way that won’t happen if you give those same people Microsoft Word.