My Subconscious Mind Is a Real Pest Sometimes, But Can Be Handy to Have Around

I was awakened about two hours before I planned to get up this morning by ideas that would not let me sleep.

It must have occurred to my subconscious mind as I slept that I’m wired to work on small and short projects and a lot of them. Songwriting tends to be a series of coming up with a good idea and then writing and then re-writing it to life. For example, my first draft of “Shadow Of Our Love” was written thirteen months ago. That’s an eternity to me.

And while there are plenty of things about songwriting that I’m still learning and/or am very weak or mediocre at, one thing I’m naturally very strong at is writing hooks. A hook is a word or a phrase that is catchy, fresh, memorable, easy to sing, and encapsulates the gist of the song. It usually becomes the song’s title and is repeated in the chorus. It is a key part of the song that the listener learns first and sings along with.

I’m a master at generating hooks. I know that sounds arrogant—and probably is—but I’ve been told by senior songwriters that I’m very good at it. Once as a fun experiment, I timed myself to see how many high-quality hooks I could come up with in an hour. I believe the final count was 40-45. And my co-writer, senior songwriter Denis Loiseau said the hooks were not only quite good but he looked them up and they appeared to be unique. That combination of quality and uniqueness is quite rare. Combined with quantity, it is a key thing I bring to my co-writers.

Many songwriters struggle to come up with hooks, and some only come up with one or two per year.

And I’m meeting with my new co-writer to begin working on a song together for the first time today–a co-writer who makes a substantial part of his living getting song placements into films and TV shows, often 15-30 seconds clips at a time.

So, my sub-conscious must have been putting all of these thoughts together in my brain and come up with some ideas that it liked so much that it didn’t want to wait to share them with me when I awakened in the morning.

While that can be inconvenient when I need the sleep, if my sub-conscious recall is anything like my conscious recall I’m glad it woke me to tell me right away before it forgot.

My subconscious also knows that I can run a long time on idea-adrenaline, and who needs to sleep, anyway? I keep telling it, that actually, I do. I function much better on eight hours of sleep—and have a much more pleasant disposition when I’ve had enough of it. But my self-conscious has a mind of its own and can be a real persistent pest at times.

Anyway, I got to thinking (notice how my conscious mind is beginning to claim credit for ideas that my sub-conscious mind came up with; seems to me it should be shared, like with a co-writer) maybe my hook-creating ability combined with my short-term multi-project focus could be put to better use creating phrases or song clip ideas.

So I plan to discuss with my new co-writer the possibility of writing hooks or portions of songs that evoke the kinds of emotions that whole songs become, but instead of always writing entire songs, perhaps it makes sense to consider having some of our projects involve writing only partial-songs (and a lot more of them) that tied to his music could be put into extensive music libraries for possible inclusion into films, TV, and advertising campaigns.

After all, phrases such as “The Best Part Of Waking Up”, “Like A Rock” “Have It Your Way”, and “Built To Last” are not only very successful advertising slogans, they are great hooks, and some started out as songs built around those hooks.

As I understand it, Barry Manilow (another Canadian—Oh, Canada!) got his start and/or made it big doing that. One of his songs or jingles was used by McDonald’s for years and launched him. I hear that it didn’t hurt his bank account either. (Hey, I’m not against money—after all I’m an investment manager—I‘ve just learned that it isn’t money that makes me happy.)

There are many unknowns about this idea and it could be impractical and perhaps even unworkable for 100 different reasons. Another is that I may be pitching it to the wrong person. It might not fit into his plans, interests, and/or skill set.
I plan to also present some first drafts of ideas for full songs to him, because whether the sub-song ideas work out I still plan to write complete songs too.

I see the two ideas as being potentially not only compatible but complementary. There have been plenty of times where I’ve come up with a song idea I got excited about but was only create about half a song out of it. I’d love to find a way to use such projects too. They are dead until listeners bring them to life.

But what the heck! If I’m doing what I love and am having fun, I’ve already won!

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About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 4 young grandsons. I manage a wealth management firm I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of 23 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and enjoying our small redwood grove and fern garden.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Creativity, Following Your Passion, Songwriting Adventure and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to My Subconscious Mind Is a Real Pest Sometimes, But Can Be Handy to Have Around

  1. Andrea Kelly says:

    “But what the heck! If I’m doing what I love and am having fun, I’ve already won!”

    So true!! If only more people could be so lucky 🙂

    • russtowne says:

      Some of it is luck and some of it is moving toward such a lifetstyle a little more every day. Unfortunately, in my case, it took me so long to figure out what I loved (besides family and friends) that it was fairly late in life before I had any hobbies or a profession that I truly loved. Fortunately, when I finally figured out what I loved I was able to move fairly quickly in that direction (a matter of years rather than decades.)

      Russ

  2. artsifrtsy says:

    I am an idea generator in my work life. Nothing as sublime as lyrics – I come up with T-shirt phrases. I tend to read a ton of cliches to see if I can twist one enough to come up with something clever so your concept of “hooking it” sounds very practical to me. It seems like that would give you the best opportunities to focus on the best prospects.

  3. I write fundraising letters and often come up with a hook or main idea and then write around it to support the hook.

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