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Creative Writing Tips and Tricks

Month

September 2016

Lyrics vs. Poetry

Believe it or not, there are quite a few fundamental differences in writing both song lyrics and poetry. I have written poetry for years now and have decided to dabble as a lyricist quite recently (I am talking about strictly writing lyrics, not the music accompanied by it). I’ve recorded my findings below and hope you find it useful when deciding whether to write lyrics or poetry.

 

1. Poetry stems from the soul 

Poetry, it seems, is a product of the soul. Nothing will ever compare to the rush of inspiration surging through thin veins, the swelling pride for carefully crafted words, the charged satisfaction from Word documents harboring your electric emotions. While writing poetry is more of an all-encompassing, soul-pouring task, writing lyrics– at least through my experience– is more of a mindful challenge. You are daring your mind to rhyme a certain amount of lines, to come up with clever and fitting refrains. While writing poetry stems from the soul, writing lyrics originates from the brain. The satisfaction that grows from writing lyrics is analogous to being skin deep, compared to the more sub-dermal feeling of writing poetry.

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2. Lyrics are extraordinarily memorable

Unlike most poetry, lyrics are set to a certain rhythm that adhere to a reader’s/listener’s mind and thoughts. This trait definitely sets lyrics apart from poetry. If you want a reader to remember an idea or emotion, or if you find that the style of repetition fits well with your voice, then, by all means, write lyrics! Some writers have an amazing knack when it comes to carefully repeating stanzas and engraving ideas in a reader’s mind.  Lyrics also tend to be easier to understand from the reader’s perspective. They are usually simple, poignant, and easy to comprehend, thereby making them even more memorable than poetry.

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3. Poetry serves to be therapeutic 

The only way I can describe poetry is one of freedom: free, soulful freedom without the constraints of musical rhythms or choruses or bridges. Poetry just… is, and does not require dependence upon a structure. This sense of freedom is extremely healthy for the spiritual being, and helps one grow into the best person they can be.

Poetry also nestles itself inside an emotional foundation. It can connect humanity to nature, humanity to humanity, or humanity to the self. Audre Lorde said that, “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” Poetry connects us, as humans, to the past, present, and future.

One of my favorite sayings is “Poetry is in the streets in full, living color.” When you look at the world through the perspective of poetry, nothing is black and white; everything is fluorescent, and your world is reversed for the better. Using this special kind of lens aids in areas such as mediation and self-reflection.

Yes, writing lyrics can be pleasurable, fun even. But it is not always self-fulfilling.

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4. Writing lyrics provides a higher success rate

If you are looking to make free-lance income by writing lyrics or poetry, you will most likely find the most success writing lyrics for a band or aspiring singer. The demand for well-written lyricists is there, and all you must do is supply it. In all honestly, there are not as many people out there looking for free-lance poets, so your best option financially would be to write lyrics. It is a fun and interesting job that will always have you searching for new ideas, new structures, and new topics.

 

Do you prefer writing poetry or lyrics? Which genre do you think wins the great debate? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

Butterfly Kisses

florida’s winter kisses

consist of rough caresses and instigate

crimson blemishes on my skin.

the sun smacks tiny freckles upon my cheeks and

gropes my shoulders for a place to leave his mark and

i have no choice but to bite my tongue.

 

every day is an impending molestation.

i’ve gotten to be afraid of it.

so I try not to listen to the

insinuations outside and i

stay inside in my

quiet room and listen to the white-noise of

the a/c.

i let your secrets hang in the atmosphere because

they’re too heavy for me to carry and i’d

rather let them suspend endlessly in

zero-gravity.

 

you used to stitch butterflies onto

the ceiling

(you still love to gaze at pinned perfections)

and i used to pretend to catch them

between my palms, boasting

wide eyes and a big, lacking-grace grin while you

ironed laundry on those bed sheets you picked up

at a yard sale down the bend.

the butterflies began to fly

frantically in elliptical orbits and i

couldn’t keep up as they spun

around my head with big, lacking-grace wings and

i called for you and the steam from the iron was

terrifying and the butterflies soared into it with big, lacking-grace confidence and i dove

for the butterflies, i dove for the butterflies,

i dove unto

the clothes iron.

 

there are

not enough seconds and not enough words and not enough lungs

collapsing beneath my ribs

to express to you the heat i’ve been feeling.

the searing breath of pessimism against my neck is

suffocating.

words swim in my hands and i want to yell, i want to yell, i want to

drown them in

the a/c.

 

god knows that,

if there’s one thing i’m good at,

it’s holding back the seething words

you know i’ll never breathe.

Discovering Optimism: 6-Word Memoir

“Rain meant that God was crying.”

In all honesty, it took me days to come up with a conclusion about what my six-word memoir should be. I brainstormed; I wrote alternative memoirs in case the others weren’t as good as I had originally thought; I wrote alternatives to those alternatives; I revised and erased. But when I thought of this memoir, I believed that it fit all too well, and that it showcased a significant memory from my life.

I grew up in a fairly religious household. My mother is Orthodox Jewish and my father is Orthodox Christian, so I always either attended synagogue and Hebrew School, or church and Sunday School. I am very happy that my parents exposed me to both religions, because I think it allowed my mind to be as open as it is today.

I remember during one summer (I was probably in the first grade or so), it would rain a lot. There were storms and lightning crashes and thunder claps and the sky seemed so livid.

One Sunday during a particular rainy morning, my family was driving to church. I sat in the back seat on the passenger side, the rain falling quite profusely. Plump droplets gathered along my window as if they were huddling for warmth, and the sky was smothered in what looked like messy, sloppy strokes of grey paint. I remember looking at the rain and feeling puzzled. I spoke above the music on the radio, over the raindrops that made their own pitter-patter rhythm as they bounced off the car. I asked my mother, “Why is God crying?”

Of course, when you’re about seven years old, the scientific realm containing the details of precipitation and the water cycle have yet been introduced to your mind. I legitimately thought that the reason we were having so many rainstorms was because God was upset. And it made me upset. I started to cry, but I tried my hardest to hold my tears back. I wondered if it was something I did that made God so upset at the world. I wondered how I could make it right again. I wondered if I was the only one who knew.

I can look back at that moment in the car and see it as a sort of metaphor. Sometimes when it rains, or when bad things are happening to us, we tend to cry about it or wallow in self-pity, either blaming the situation on ourselves or others. By doing this, we create a personal, mini rainstorm in our minds. Instead though, we should look for that bit of sunshine glazed over the horizon, and place our hope in that. I believe that’s the choice we were given since Day One: the choice of whether to be be rained-out, or to be radiant.

Feel free to leave your own 6-word memoirs below, along with your explanation. I’d love for us to share our stories and provide support for one another by offering our own bits of optimism to each other.

Happy writing!

Violin {My First Prose Poem}

The circuits are twitching again. I can feel the currents jump through my veins and under my arteries, shove past my capillaries. It anchors around my knee caps, my thin shoulders, my breaking spine. “You know, it’s not a wish bone for a reason.” No, but it is mine.

The currents squirm between tissue, zap inside neurons. I get like this when I think about you. When the air buzzes with electricity and the earth below me fizzles. When I swear that, if I squint, I can see you standing in front of me, hands in pockets, eyes lowered in boyish meekness.

I don’t know if you know this, but I say I’m sorry every day. I think about your hands on your sleek violin, on smooth taut strings. I think about my violet fingertips and my chartreuse sins. I think of the way you always ask open-ended questions. The way you leave the music books open to a page you’ve been mulling over, the way treble clefs vibrate between your teeth and the way you find the opportunity to fling them back at me. “There is music in your voice.” No, but there is music in the way you breathe.

When I feel the electricity start up again, I am lost. The gadgets hum inside my chest and suddenly I’m breaking open. There are wires seeping out, ripping through my ribs. There is a pulse but it is electric. It is fragile. It is made up of programs and circuits; it is manufactured. I want to cradle it in my palms, whisper it back to sleep. I want to sing a lullaby to its bitterness and I want to demand for the whole world to rock it to sweet dreams. I want this electricity to hibernate inside me.

I shout for anyone, anything. But you sink deep and make sure that my voice fades into my naivety.

 

*Special thanks to Alicia, a true friend who is always there to give me inspiration. 

To My Fellow Introverts: The Fear of Fearing

If I could change one thing about myself, anything at all, it would be to erase my anxiety and unpredictable fear. When I look at the world, I truly try my best to absorb it through the lens of compassion. Perceiving the world through sympathetic lenses is my personal way to overcome not just my fear– but my fear of fearing itself.

See, when you hear the word fear, it is not merely the feeling of “being scared.” For some people, it is terror. It is horror. And when a feeling like this takes over your lens of the world, makes you see things through crimson, panicky goggles, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed. There is a problem that needs to be confronted.

If no one is addressing this problem for you, then I will. I feel the need to reach out to others who have it, and to also connect it back to the topic of writing. Because, let’s face it. When it comes to getting our writing out there, we are all terrified.

So. Why do we fear? In almost all everyday cases and situations, our fear can be traced back to the real, gargantuan problem: failure. Think of a situation in your everyday life in which you were horribly afraid. Now, ask yourself: Why? Nine times out of ten, you can relate your reason to a fear of failing someone, something, or yourself. We can all agree that this panic or worry is irrational, and yet we feel it anyway in such a way that it consumes our mind and thoughts. It makes decisions for us, prevents us from accelerating in life. Keeps us from being who we are.

Now, people tell us every day to stop fearing. “It’s unhealthy,” they say. “It’s going to cause stress. And do you know what stress does to the body?” In response, you might swallow and shake your head, your lungs might already constrict at the prospect. They continue, “You could die early. You could die all ALONE. YOUNG. STRESSED. UNHAPPY. And oh, did I mention DEAD?”

It is “advice” like this that causes people in our society to actually fear the concept of being afraid. “It will cause depression. It will give you cancer.”

To help to give you a bit of a respite from this destructive type of thinking, my friend and I were recently talking, and she gave me a piece of advice that I won’t forget. Virtually, she said that tranquility is the perfect medicine to a heart of fear. Find your happy place, whether it be a sunny beach, a calm, ambient forest. Just… get there. Knowing that you can reach this place will help you to eradicate your fear of fearing.

A few weeks ago I was watching the Dr. Oz show and a young man named Drew Lynch was invited on stage, a fantastic comedian with a severe stutter. On the show, he talks about facing his fears; hearing what he had to say inspired me in more ways than one, so I feel compelled to share it with you as well. It truly helped me to put things in perspective; you can watch and listen to what he had to say here. In the video, he proclaims, “We cannot be afraid to explore boundaries. I like to do something every day that scares me.”

I’ve been venturing out of my comfort zone a lot lately, and I find myself face-planting into panic attacks more than I’d like to admit. If you struggle with this same predicament, I’m here to tell you that it’s alright. If you are afraid to get your writing out into the public, push your comfort levels and submit to as many publishers as you’d like. Try something new. Meet a new person. Be someone that others can look up to. Look at spontaneity as an adventure. If you do this, your fear of fearing will be no more. Because, like Drew says, “you’re never going to grow if you don’t scare yourself a little.”

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions, comments, ideas, or stories to share. Keep being awesome, and, as always, keep writing. 🙂

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