What difference did you notice in the process and experience of songwriting after you left your day job, compared to writing while you were working? Was it better or easier or faster when you had more time?
It has never been, and will never be easy. The one thing I have learned about songwriting in all this is that it is always difficult and frequently painful. The difference is that when I was working full time it was easy to avoid the painful stuff – I could float happily through my software life and if some idea came to me that wrote itself, I could follow it through. Or not. I’m sure a lot of great songs went unwritten because I wasn’t there to receive the muse when she showed up.
That changed a little when I started writing songs for John Hodgman’s Little Gray Books reading series. Those were deadlines and assigned topics, so it actually meant sitting down and working sometimes. It was easier because there was less pressure – it wasn’t my JOB. But some of them were really hard, some of them were actual work, and some of them came out not so good but I had to go with them anyway.
Thing a Week was a more distilled version of this. Adding to the pressure was the fact that I had declared it my job and I was doing it in a pretty public way. So there was no question about me sitting down every day to work on something, and there was no way for me to avoid the songs that just made me want to run away and not write them.
Roger Ebert tweeted the other day about how the muse arrives during the act of creation, not before, which means that you usually have to start without her. This is why starting is the most difficult part – you know you’re going to be alone out there in the wilderness for some period of time, and it’s going to hurt.