How to fight negativity

Believe it or not, but I was born with a very positive outlook on life. For a long time, I thought that telling people when something good had happened would make them just as happy. Oh, bless my little cotton socks, how naïve was I? Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I’m a persistent individual. It took a long time before I started to keep my good news to myself after having had my happy face slapped one time too many.

 
There are very few people that can take good news that doesn’t include themselves and be genuinely happy about someone else’s success. Sad but true. The little green-eyed monster called jealousy lives nearby for most of us.

 
I’ve noticed that sometimes all it takes to annoy someone is to look happy. I don’t even have to open my mouth. If I have a day where I can’t stop my inner happiness shining through my eyes; this can be enough to really frustrate someone. So, how can we fight negativity? Personally, I try to ignore it as much as possible and tell myself it isn’t my problem. A person that can’t stand happiness or be happy for someone else must live a very unhappy life, so the best thing is to leave them to stew in their bitterness and continue on with my own journey.

 
Sometimes this is easier said than done though. For instance, only yesterday I got a very acidic comment about something I’ve written. It was about my lyric writing. I had written about how learning my craft has help me improve my writing this year and the comment from this person said, among other things, that they had never tried to write what others might want to hear. In the end they said that they never have had any kind of success either, but they preferred that than writing to please others. Anyway, the whole thing was said in a way that made it clear that this person felt I had sacrificed my integrity to become successful.

 
For a moment that comment hurt a bit. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I don’t sacrifice my integrity for anything in the world. Yes, I would love to write really successful lyrics, and yes, because of that I have taken various steps to get better. The one thing I wouldn’t do is to write a lyric that doesn’t have anything of my personality in it or that I’m not happy enough to put my signature under as an original lyric from me. In all fairness, if what I’ve been doing this year is to leave my integrity behind to write what I believe to be possible cash cows in rhyme, I’m really not doing a very good job, am I?

 
Any craft out there has got rules. The first thing we’ve got to do in order to get good at something is to learn these rules. It doesn’t’ matter how much talent we have. Without rules we will sooner or later hit a brick wall, where pure talent doesn’t give us the answers needed to get any further. Learning the basics and the theory behind the craft of our choice will help us climb those inevitable walls. They give us a solid foundation to fall back on, and after we become really comfortable among those rules, we can happily start to improvise.

 
If anything, I wish I had taken this truth to heart sooner, instead of spending years shuffling furniture around on a sinking ship, but better late then never. It’s just sad that someone has to take my efforts at getting better as selling out. I have put that hurt behind me now and moved on. Maybe the person writing that comment doesn’t believe in their abilities or are unwilling to put in the effort to improve. Whichever it is, it really isn’t my problem. I will continue my journey, because I know where I’m heading.

 
Sometimes the negativity from an unexpected source is so enormous and takes so much energy that we finally have to cut the ties, so not to drown in the acidic lava constantly floating our way. This happened to me with a close family member that I now haven’t seen or spoken to in five years. If I would have known how peaceful my life would become after that cut, I would have done it much earlier, but when it’s family you tend to hang on much longer than you would for anyone else.

 
Anyhow. I wrote a lyric about my relationship with this person called “I’m a Survivor”. Fredrik Holm composed a big band style melody for it and Tine Sylvest lent her voice to a demo for us. Have a listen if you feel like it.

 
Take care until next time and happy writing!
Åsa

 

I’m a survivor! 
Born the runt of the litter.
Never to be picked.
Heard it far too often,
for the wounds to get licked.
Aimed too high for my talent.
Just moderate at best.
Never had much substance.
To compete with the rest.

Chorus
Suppress me, depress me, as much as you want.
Pardon me, I will continue to reach for the front!
I’m a survivor!
I’m a survivor!
Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
Oh Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
It’s the last key on the chain that mostly opens the door.
I will keep my dreams alive and turn up for so much more!
I’m a survivor!
Yeah!
I’m a survivor!
Oh yeah!
I’m a Survivor!

Chose my own way of living,
just outside the norm.
It woke the green eyed monster,
in those stuck in a form.
Aiming high as a challenge,
all good fun to me.
The stars, a valid option.
Or the top of a tree!

Chorus

©2013 Åsa Sandberg

 

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The perfect day

This morning the world welcomed me to another warm and beautiful summer’s day. Since I absolutely adore sunny and warm days, it isn’t a huge leap to feel the urge to put down on paper something lyrical about this glorious season. The only problem is, very many people have had the same thought and done it very well so how on earth do I go about writing a beautiful song about summer in a new way?

When having had lyrics evaluated, I’ve learned that originality and new ways of writing about an old, well known subject is something that gives the lyrics higher rating. Somehow fortunately, this is one area where I tend to do well. I never consciously set out to be different, but somehow my lyrics seem to end up a bit outside the box. Still, I can’t see how I could write a summer song in an original way.

Therefore, I have decided to give myself a challenge through a little exercise I use and while I’m at it I decided to share the process with you. I will write down a very typical four-line verse and then try to rewrite the same verse three times, to see if I can make it appear original in some shape or form.

OK, what do I want to say;

The perfect day
The seagulls woke me at 5 AM.
Not one cloud, could be seen in the sky.
The scent of the lilacs filled the air.
It was hazy, very warm and dry.

Well, I hadn’t prepared this. I am writing “live” so to speak, and I have now changed my mind. I don’t want to change the first verse at this moment in time, instead I will change the exercise and try and write a simple summer song about simple things. Therefore, I will now continue with verse two.

The kettle had boiled, I’d fed the cats,
I took my cup and a book outside.
The sound of the early morning train,
echoed softly down the street and died.

I will wait a while with the chorus and go straight to the next verse. But before I do I need to decide whether to stay in the small timeframe of this perfect morning or make the timeframe bigger to make room for a verse about the afternoon. My only reason for wanting to step into the afternoon is because I have a sentence about ice cream I really would like to finally use, but if I write about ice cream in a time frame only including breakfast, most people will find it strange and that is not the kind of “original” I’m after.
So, I took a five-minute break and while doing so the chorus decided to present itself in my mind. So here is the chorus;

Chorus
It was a perfect day!
Filled with wonders and sensations
of a special kind.
A perfect day!
One where nothing bad could reach me,
it was left behind.
A perfect day!
One to keep inside my memory
and easy to find.
It was a perfect day!

 

Thanks to letting the chorus talk about the day and not only the morning, I can now happily move on to the afternoon.

To cool off I took my dog swimming.
Met some strangers and talked for a while.
Then a friend turned up on the door step.
With fresh strawberries, cream and a smile.

Sometimes you don’t know what works before you try it out. My fancy sentence about ice-cram didn’t work at all, so now I can let that one go. I will give this perfect day an ending in a fourth verse and then we’ll see if it all works.

The warmth of the sun never left us.
The day I never wanted to end.
A cool glass of wine made it perfect.
A good day among pets and a friend.

I think I leave it there for now. I will ponder over the need of a bridge in the lyric at some point. This wasn’t my normal way to write a blog, but I went with the flow and showed you one of my methods when writing song lyrics. I assume it is safe to say it hardly ever goes as planned. I will collect all the pieces now to be able to look at it as a whole.

The perfect day
The seagulls woke me at 5 AM.
Not one cloud, could be seen in the sky.
The scent of the lilacs filled the air.
It was hazy, very warm and dry.

The kettle had boiled, I’d fed the cats,
I took my cup and a book outside.
The sound of the early morning train,
echoed softly down the street and died.

Chorus
It was a perfect day!
Filled with wonders and sensations
of a special kind.
A perfect day!
One where nothing bad could reach me,
it was left behind.
A perfect day!
One to keep inside my memory
and easy to find.
It was a perfect day!

To cool off I took my dog swimming.
Met some strangers and talked for a while.
Then a friend turned up on the door step.
With fresh strawberries, cream and a smile.

The warmth of the sun never left us.
The day I never wanted to end.
A cool glass of wine made it perfect.
A good day among pets and a friend.

Chorus
©2018 Åsa Sandberg

Well, the end result may not be original in any shape or form, but it was a good writing exercise on a day that has been the most beautiful day of the year so far.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Change is the only constant

Throughout my writing career I’ve been very careful to confirm something by putting it in writing, if I don’t feel it is the absolute truth. I feel the written word is such a powerful energy that I only want to write what I know to be the truth. Nowadays, when writing lyrics, this has become a truth with some shades of grey, because since I have started to write for other people and follow their visions, my collaborator’s wishes becomes my first priority.

 
The other day, after having written my blog “Focus and Happiness”, one of my early lyrics popped up in my head. The lyric is called “Broken”. It is quite gruesome, even though it lifts to a more positive vibe in the last two verses. At the time when I wrote “Broken” I quite often used my own real experiences in my lyrics. I think there were many reasons for this. One was the fact that I was so used to putting only the truth down on paper, so that came with me into my lyrics. Another reason was the old familiar saying; “write what you know”; especially when starting out. A third reason was that I knew I couldn’t be the only one having lived through what I had, or who was walking around with these kinds of feelings. From all this, I thought that someone out there might feel comforted by hearing another person having had experiences reflecting their own.

 
When thinking of “Broken”, five years after writing the lyrics, I realised I couldn’t write those lyrics today. My life has moved on so much since then and the last thing I feel these days is broken. Becoming aware of this, I also realised my fear of change which had been one of my weaknesses in life, has subsided substantially. What someone scared of change does not realise is that change doesn’t have to be negative. The chance for a positive change is just as plausible since everything around us is neutral until we put our own interpretation onto the situation. I suppose I could go back to those broken feelings that feel so distant now, if someone I collaborate with would need something to paint hopelessness, but I am rather pleased that the music world rarely has the demand for sad thoughts on that level. The only reason I wish they would, is that I am sitting on the lyric “Broken” and, for once, I feel it actually deserves more than being hidden away in my personal dropbox.

 
One of my collaborators, Fredrik Holm, wrote a melody to “Broken”, which gives the song another curios angle. Fredrik’s main instrument is Bassoon, and he had never, ever heard a bassoon in any kind of popular music. He felt he wanted to rectify this in the melody of “Broken”, so he actually included a bassoon solo just before the bridge of the song.

 
This was at a time when we were first starting out writing songs, going with our instinct and feeling rules were there to be broken. A few years down the line we have learned that the right to break rules are earned by those who first learn and become good at following those same rules. If you don’t know the basics in both song writing and lyric writing and build your improvisations and “rule breaking” on those basics, very few people can understand what you are trying to say. The outcome is that the messages are too mixed up for the general public.

 
Fredrik and I made a CD, meant as a demo really, out of a dozen of our early songs. One newspaper critic was very positive and kind. It was one of those rare moments when you notice that someone really took their time to understand what we were trying to say and do. He said that all the twelve songs were like separate mini-musicals telling different life stories.

 
Our song “Broken” definitely has the drama of a musical number in it and yes, it also includes a bassoon solo.

 
If you feel like something different, have a listen. I have to admit I’ve got a soft spot for this one but I’m so grateful it doesn’t paint a correct picture of my life anymore.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Broken 

I’ve been fighting for survival
for many, many years.
Bullies, drink and violence
have broken all my gears.

Chorus
I’m broken!
Whichever way I turn,
I’m broken
I’m asked for more than I can give.
I’m broken!
No fuel inside to burn,
I’m broken
stop the demands and let me live!
Reversing is no option;
there’s nothing there to see.
But starting on the road ahead
takes more than what’s in me.

Chorus

Bridge
Burnout is the modern way of saying; I am lost.
We’re falling by the side lines because of every must.
The hunt for something better and bigger drives us on.
Each day we join the rat race, but all the joy has gone.
I would like to stop and listen
and smell a fresh cut lawn.
Sit out by the ocean
until the break of dawn.
I know life could be better
if I had time to look,
and find myself somewhere again;
claim back what life once took.

Chorus

©2013 Åsa Sandberg

 

Finally a reason to celebrate!

I have been walking on cloud nine since Saturday. It isn’t such a big thing in the greater scheme of things, but for me it feels like a major shift in a very positive direction. I sent the lyrics I’ve been telling you the progress of during the last couple of weeks, for evaluation and got the results on Saturday. I was quite nervous opening the file because this specific place is really tough in their constructive criticism. In fairness I like that approach. It suits my mentality, even though I can feel distraught for a while if what I get back is really bad, especially when I have felt my work was ok. Also, I always remember that this is only one opinion, and that others look at my work in a different way. Still, it is a place I’ve come to respect for their honesty and the way they explain why they think something is bad or, in this case good.

For those of you that didn’t see the lyrics I’m talking about, here they are again;

Destiny Calling
Verse 1
It was the 16th of June -91
The day when destiny knocked on my door.
The Crystal ball in my gut warned for clouds,
my need to meet you meant so, so much more.

Verse 2
I wore a mint coloured top and worn jeans.
I grabbed my camera, note pad and pen.
The breeze felt warm, in my highlighted hair.
I was so happy that day, way back then.

Chorus
You were tall, dark and handsome.
It was love at first sight.
You were twice as old as me.
Could be wrong but felt so right!
I felt destiny calling,
when I met you that night.
Yes, it was destiny calling that night!…

Verse 3
I drove home knowing everything had changed.
Still alone in the car, but not in my heart.
A signed record by my side, promised more,
a new life, bigger views, a fresh start.

Repeat Chorus

Bridge

When destiny’s calling
Don’t say no, go with the flow.
It’s your soul’s way of saying;
Here’s a truth you need to know.
When destiny’s calling, don’t say no!

Repeat Chorus

©2018 Åsa Sandberg

This is how they are scoring each lyric: Each item is assessed on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being a strong “no,” 5 being average and 10 being “absolutely yes!” (Note that a score of 10 is reserved for true excellence and is rarely given.)

To my utter amazement I was given five nines for my work. These were the items judged in my lyrics that reached that height;

– The theme/idea is fresh and unique, even if it’s a take on an old theme (“love lost”).
– There is a story arc: a beginning, a middle and a resolution/end
– There is good imagery that the listener can envision.
– The various song parts are cohesive and consistent with the theme.
– Overall, these are well-written lyrics with viable commercial potential.

Some of the general comments also made my day. “The imagery is palpable, so hard to get that across.” And “There’s a good story here, with an opening, an arc and a resolution. The mysterious setup (why did you grab a camera, notepad and pen?) that evolves into a “fan-love” ending is a great lyrical progression. Really delightful.

 

The reason I’m getting into such detail with the evaluation is because my blog is about development as a lyric writer and I’ve promised to share both the good and the bad. This week I have something really good to share and for you out there who maybe have not yet used any evaluation services I hope this can give you an idea of what they are looking for in a lyric.

One thing I have lately been working hard at lately, is to find my own way of saying things in my lyrics, so I was very happy with the eight points I got for this part of the evaluation; “The word/phrase choices are original, interesting and avoid clichés.”

 

Talking about that, the one thing the evaluator commented on in a less positive way, was my choice of title, “Destiny Calling”, since it is a phrase that is and has been used a lot. That’s ok by me. I will stick to my guns here, since I’m told my theme and idea is fresh and unique, despite my choice of title.

With this evaluation behind me, it will be interesting to see how the juries of the various competitions will look at my lyrics. Exciting times!

I’m going to end with a piece of good advice to any lyric writer out there who is serious about their work and want to move forward; have your lyrics professionally evaluated! The comments you get really make you see your work from a different angle and even though you should always keep your own personality and style, having strangers reading your words will help you to pinpoint what you need to work on to get yourself to that next level.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

Åsa

Destiny Calling

Spring and early summer mean different song and lyric competitions are again opening their doors to a new season. You’ve heard me talk about competitions many times on this page, sometimes in a positive way for the phenomenon and sometimes against it. Still, there is no getting away from the fact that as an unsigned lyric writer, competitions are a good way of finding out where your material stands in the greater scheme of things. It is also one way of telling the outskirts of the music world, that you exist.

 
I hadn’t planned to take part in any competitions this year, because I was tired of repeating a similar kind of half-success year after year, or sometimes even failing in doing so. I haven’t always been strong enough to face the fact that my lyrical skills are at a standstill. Then I remembered some wise words I had read somewhere. “Only a fool repeats the same behaviour pattern time and time again and expects a different result.” It may not be the exact saying, but near enough. After taking a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, I had to accept that I was looking at one of those fools. I’d never really tried to change my way of writing since starting on this journey. I had obviously changed what I wrote about, and I had written in different tempos, but I had never, ever taken in and accepted how much graft it takes to get a really good end product. Instead I had winged it and hung up my whole future in this business on that one ounce of talent that lives inside me.

 
I have one explanation for some of this, which is not an excuse. Quite often lyrics just appears inside me. They are ready, word by word and all I need to do is jot them down. I have no idea where they come from, they just appear. Because of this, I’ve been almost afraid to “mess” with them. I’ve been thinking that whatever they are, good or bad, it must be meant for them to stay just as they arrived. It has taken until this year, before I’ve been able to shake off this fear. Now I’ve started to look at these lyrics as a blue print, a frame or a skeleton. They are a platform on which to build with whatever I now learn from people that have been successful lyric writers for years and are willing to share their experiences.

 
There won’t be enough time for me to get a lot of new and hopefully strong material for this season of competitions, but I have already entered one into http://www.songwritingcontest.co.uk/ and http://www.lyricistoftheyear.com/. This year you can enter your songs and lyrics to more than one competition simultaneously, without it costing you anymore, which is brilliant. Take a look at this new website https://submitmysong.com/ to learn more if you are thinking about entering competitions.

 
In one of last week’s blogs, “Keep it simple”, I have already shown you parts of the song lyric I now have entered into the competitions. Again, it’s not mine to judge whether the finished product is good or bad, but I have attempted to adapt a few things in the lyric from what I have learned during the last few months;

 
– It talks about one specific experience
– I give my story a start, middle and an end
– I’ve tried to put enough meat on the bones of my story, so that the listener can feel and engage with the excitement the young woman is feeling on this particular day
– I write about that one single day, but also allow the listener to imagine how the future for these two will turn out
– I’ve added a bridge to expand what I wanted to say with these lyrics.

 

Whether I have succeeded in my attempts remains to be seen, but I feel I have started a new learning curve. To keep my promise from last week, I will leave you with my newest lyric and competition entry, “Destiny calling”.

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Destiny Calling
Verse 1
It was the 16th of June -91
The day when destiny knocked on my door.
The Crystal ball in my gut warned for clouds,
my need to meet you meant so, so much more.

Verse 2
I wore a mint coloured top and worn jeans.
I grabbed my camera, note pad and pen.
The breeze felt warm, in my highlighted hair.
I was so happy that day, way back then.

Chorus
You were tall, dark and handsome.
It was love at first sight.
You were twice as old as me.
Could be wrong but felt so right!
I felt destiny calling,
when I met you that night.
Yes, it was destiny calling that night!…

 
Verse 3
I drove home knowing everything had changed.
Still alone in the car, but not in my heart.
A signed record by my side, promised more,
a new life, bigger views, a fresh start.

Chorus

 
Bridge
When destiny’s calling
Don’t say no, go with the flow.
It’s your soul’s way of saying;
Here’s a truth you need to know.
When destiny’s calling, don’t say no!

 

Chorus

©2018 Åsa Sandberg

 

Finding Avenues to Grow

I’ve known for a while now that I’ve come as far as I can on my own with my lyric writing. Yes, listening to critics and reading evaluations has helped a lot. If nothing else, those avenues have shown me where my specific weaknesses lies, and they have also given me enough encouragement to be able to strengthen my belief that I’m not wasting my time in my pursuit of writing descent song lyrics. Still, descent isn’t quite the level I want to remain at. I would like to get to a place where it is possible to create something that is good.

 
After having tried to follow suggestions from evaluations and still having new evaluations coming back pointing out my old mistakes, I’ve known I need to look for help through some sort of course or education. The problem is that there are many people out there who, without any shame, like to use “wanna bees” to fill their pockets. People that shower praise and promises over unsigned musicians and lyric writers with a dream, but who give very little substantial help in return for their big fees. Luckily, I have finally grown wise to that kind of “help”. There are obviously serious people out there too, and they offer genuine opportunities to learn from their hard-earned knowledge. The problem is that these courses very often come with a price tag that is way beyond my wallet.

 
Yesterday lady luck knocked on my door, and I found a course that was within reach for what I felt I could invest, to get another couple of steps up the ladder from descent towards good. At first I was worried that the offer was one of those that says one price in the first instance, but as soon as you have paid that, instead of being taken to the product you thought you bought, you are redirected to a new page telling you that to get all that you were just promised, you have to pay for this too etc. To my utter joy, this course wasn’t one of those. It was the real deal. Furthermore, it came with a 60 day money back guarantee if I, for some reason, wouldn’t like the course. This was a very good guarantee indeed, since I will easily have time to get through the course within that time span. So, if I was that way inclined, I could have the cake and eat it. As it happens, I am not that way inclined. I have already had a quick look at one of the modules, and from that glance, I have been given the help needed to start to rectify the weakness in my lyric writing which has been pointed out to me time and time again.

 
What made me trust the person that has created this course even more, was that the first thing he did was to recommend someone else’s book as the best thing to read if I want to improve my lyric writing skills. That book was only a few pounds in e-book format, so I have now added that one too.

 
When I have worked myself through all the modules of this course and if it continues to be as useful as it promises to be after a first glance, I will be happy to recommend it, because it is sold at a price manageable for most people, which is the aim of creator of the course. The same goes for the book. So, watch this space!

 
Today, I’m going to leave you with a pearl of a song by MeatLoaf, featuring Marion Raven, with music and lyrics by the brilliant Jim Steinman. It is difficult to choose just one song from these gentlemen’s collaboration, but today I will pick a song that has been recorded by many artists, but I still really prefer MeatLoaf’s version. The song is “It’s all coming back to me now”. There is a specific line of that song that resonates so well with how I think when I look back at my life; “There were things I’d never do again, but then they’d always seem right.” Oh well, I suppose that is how it should be.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa