Neil Young and Inspiration

I am always fascinated by what triggers a creative bout for any kind of artist, and this really caught my eye:

John Mutter at Shelf Awareness had an article today about Patti Smith’s interview with Neil Young at BEA. They talked about music, writing, and creativity.

“Smith asked about the inspiration for Young’s classic “Ohio,” and he told a story about being with David Crosby and two of the Crosby, Nash, Stills and Young crew at a peaceful cabin in the redwoods, smoking weed, when someone threw down on a table a copy of Time or Newsweek whose cover was the famous picture of a woman grieving over the body of one of the students killed at Kent State. ‘It’s an unbelievable picture,’ he said. ‘It still gives me the chills.” In reaction, ‘I picked up my guitar, and it took about a minute to write the song.'”   …

“If you want to write a song, go ask a guitar,” Young said. “Pick up someone else’s guitar and the next day a song will come.” He added that “music lives in guitars, sounds live in them,” and compared old guitars with old cars. “When you sit in an old car, you can feel all that happened in it right there. It’s why I like to go to junkyards.”

I just love the image that inside of a resonate guitar is a song just waiting to be formed.

We don’t have guitars, at least that’s not our principle work tool. We have pads of paper, and computers. We can take long walks or hot showers or sit in old junky cars. But while brilliant songwriters like Neil Young can pull off a song in about a minute, we have to stick with it a lot longer, inhabiting both the real world and the world we are imagining.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti just reminded me of a great way to stay in our imaginary worlds: the plain one dollar notebook. When she finishes writing for the day, Sue jots down what she is going to be writing the next day: what scene, what emotional reaction, what little gem she wants to make sure she doesn’t forget.

Here she is, presenting me with my very own notebook. And yeah, I know it’s a kinda dorky,  set-up shot. But besides the notebook, see a little bit of that serene, empty room around us? That’s Sue’s snuggery, a little building her husband constructed for her in the back yard where she goes to do her writing. Just big enough for a couch, a desk, and a book shelf. Even better than a junky car for sitting and getting inspiration.

Betsy

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Neil Young and Inspiration

  1. Louise Hawes

    I love the resonant guitar, Betsy! But you know, our tools resonate, too. I remember “air typing” on William Faulkner’s old typewriter. I left his home shaking and crying…there were still words there!

  2. markkarlins

    Very much like the idea of the life of objects and the life in objects.

    That room looks like a nice place to write. But that junky car would be my first choice. All that history and rust.

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