But also: If you've been writing songs solo for years, and if you are the sort of person who puts everything through several drafts before sharing it with anyone, opening up the process can be terrifying.
So that's fun.
Eventually the desire to complete a stalled backlog of songs overcame the cringe factor. I went through my past few notebooks and pulled lyrics I liked, and combined them into a Google Doc. I didn't insert page breaks between ideas. Instead there's a little row of hyphens, like this:
—because sometimes you get lyrics at separate times without realizing they're part of the same song. Seeing them sharing a screen can help. I saved it as St. Jerome's Charitable Home for Orphaned & Misbegotten Lyrics—Jerome being the patron of both orphans and libraries—and shared it with the band.
Here's what I've learned so far:
- Culling lyrics for people whose opinions you value is a really good exercise. You don't want to waste their time. (Especially Charlie's.)
- The act of typing things into an unwonted format helped me figure out a couple of things almost immediately. The first thing I typed was a couplet-chorus combination I've been kicking around since my last summer in Asheville, always feeling like the chorus was a weird letdown for that particular verse. Not until seeing it in the doc did I realize it was actually two songs, setting up different promises (and premises). As soon as I split them up, I figured out new verses for each one and spotted the marginal note that would become the real chorus for song #1.
- Sharing the document, with all its stupid vulnerability, has cracked something open in a process that has been blocked for a year. It might be too soon to say exactly how it has changed the process; it's certainly too soon to judge the results. But it feels as though I'm approaching songs with better focus and steadier work than before.
- I'm used to the way my day-gig editorial teams work in shared docs. Bandmates generally do not insert comments replying to your comments or querying "Errata?" or noting an inconsistency. It took several days before I realized this was not a referendum on my work.
- I have been misquoting this Simpsons line for years: