Like many people, I’m fascinated by how creative types find their ideas. (Or maybe that should be how creative ideas find people to express them, but that takes us down a totally a different rabbit trail.)
A recent broadcast of Diane Rehm’s popular radio show on NPR shed a little light on the topic. Her guest was Carole King, probably best known as a singer from the 1960s whose distinctive sound and style created the 1971 chart-topping Tapestry album, a record (and now a CD) that remains popular even today.
Despite her acclaim as a performer, in her heart, King is a songwriter, pure and simple. It’s a fact borne out in dozens of her tunes that have been sung by such divergent artists as Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, the Monkeys, and Celine Dion.
King’s lyrics tell stories, and her music—a pop and folk infused mix—brings them to life. One of her best known songs, “You’ve Got A Friend,” is particularly soulful and was popularized by James Taylor in 1971. Listening to the words makes one wonder how the song came about—a question that didn’t escape Rehm who posed it to King during the interview.
“It just ‘dropped in,’ ” King said.
“When I sat down at the piano,” King recalled, “that song just ‘came,’ and I’ve always considered it a gift. And I’m glad it came through me… It has touched a lot of people.”
Others have explained their creative sources using images. Merle Shain, Canadian author and journalist, wrote about it this way in her book, When Lovers Are Friends:
Poets talk of “having lines land on them” and claim that what they write is hanging in the air for anyone to reach. When someone asked William Blake where he got his ideas, he said that he stuck his finger through the floor of heaven and pulled them down.
King went on to use the “dropped in” phrase at least twice more. When asked to explain, she likened it to writing a letter, but not knowing exactly what to say. Then, suddenly, you find the words effortlessly coming out of the pen and onto the paper. For her, it happens at the piano—suddenly music just comes out.
Franz Kafka, noted German fiction writer, explained his own down-to-earth approach to writing:
There is no need to leave the house. Stay at your desk and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be perfectly still and alone. The world will unmask itself to you, it can’t do otherwise.
Creativity can be thought of as an intuitive process, nurtured through prayer, contemplation, walks in nature, etc. Sometimes the ideas come as hunches or inklings of something to do. At other times, in the case of Carole King, they come as complete songs or ideas. We do know that the more we act on our intuitive hunches, the stronger and more readily available they become.
For me, it’s a sort of “let go of Jake and just let things be, without judgment or conditions.”
Perhaps it is the rabbit trail we didn’t go down: maybe there are all these ideas just swirling around in the universe—just waiting for someone who is ready to hear them.
Don’t know for sure, but it just might be!