The artificial light reflects off of the mahogany wood I cradle in my hands. It’s a little past midnight. A cup of mint tea is steaming on the bedside table and papers are strewn left and right on top of my bedsheets. I’m frantically scribbling away, a host of creative energy surrounded by the late night calm.
I write my best songs when the world is asleep. When the silence is almost too lonely and all I can do is bring some music into the quiet. The ink settles on the paper and the thoughts that were heavy in my mind find a new home in a melody.
I started songwriting when I was about 14 years old. I was a typical emotional middle-school girl with all these feelings trapped inside and I needed some way of letting them out. I wasn’t a good songwriter. It was always four chords with the same strumming pattern and the basic pop song formula. But as I got older I became more experienced and I have begun to take risks in my songwriting.
One of the coolest things about this form of art is getting to look back on years of life experiences. Taylor Swift and I are oddly similar: whether you were unnecessarily kind or we hit a rough patch in our relationship, chances are I wrote a song about it. I have recordings and notebooks of songs that paint a picture of amazing and not-so-amazing periods of my life. It is a wonderful way to reflect on all that I have experienced over the years.
I wrote a song entitled “When You Hold Me” at Interlochen Center For The Arts Summer Songwriting Camp. It is the thank-you note I never wrote to my mom for getting me through two very tough years in my life. While I don’t believe it is musically one of the best songs I have written, it is close to my heart because it is honest and genuine. On the other hand, I wrote a light-hearted song called “You Don’t Have to Say Anything” all about that special feeling of having a crush. A queasy excited feeling we have all had at some point in our lives.
While songwriting is an amazing way to remember parts of my life I didn’t document any other way, it is also terrifying to do because there is so much vulnerability involved. Sharing your original songs often means sharing a personal story and watching someone react to it, positively or negatively. I usually go to my sister, Josephine, for advice whenever I write a new song. She is always so honest and has witnessed my songwriting improve over the years. She knows the challenges I go through when writing a song and often quizzes me about the stories behind every one. I appreciate her (sometimes brutal) truthfulness because it makes me better and forces me to view my songs from a new perspective.
As I have spent more time at college, I have struggled to find the time to keep up my songwriting amid all my academics and extracurriculars. My guitar has started to collect dust and my notebook is hidden underneath a pile of textbooks. While it is important to me to work hard in school, I feel like a little piece of my creative side is being neglected. Looking forward to next year, I aim to build time into my schedule to play guitar and write lyrics so that I don’t lose passion for my art.
Songwriting is a passion I found at a young age that I keep falling in love with again and again. It is simultaneously my emotional outlet and the boundary of my comfort zone. It has been there for me through countless changes, heartbreaks, and sunny days. While it definitely comes with challenges, I wouldn’t trade my passion for songwriting for the world.