Friday, January 25, 2013

The Power of Screwin' Around

I was rehearsing with my band recently, between songs, when I found my guitarist Billy playing some groovy little surfer riff. He caught me looking at him and stopped. I said, "What was that?" He replied, "Oh, just screwin' around." I said, "Well, keep on doing it!" So he played the riff some more, I came up with a little rockabilly drumbeat, my singer Pamela started making up a vocal line on nonsense lyrics - then, suddenly, Billy worked in a chorus. Five minutes later, we had a song that sounded all the world like we'd been playing it for months.

And that's what often spurs creativity: screwin' around. Never underestimate it. I have, in the past year, had great success in a return to poetry, and I recall, during that four-month, 120-poem burst, that often I would begin my first drafts with a line or two of nonsense words. But the words almost always led to a connection, and the connection grew into a poem. I sometimes threw out those nonsense phrases, but often I kept them in, just to retain the original path of creativity that led to the birth of the poem - and to give the reader the sense of something growing out of an apparent nothing.

So that's my advice for today: don't ever stop screwin' around.

Michael J. Vaughn is the author of 13 novels, including The Popcorn Girl, available at