A Songwriter Writes a Novel

I am a songwriter.  I have been writing songs since I got my first guitar at age 5.  My dad played guitar and wrote songs, which inspired me to do the same at a very early age.  He still writes, performs, works with publishing companies, and is shooting for his big break as a musician.  I get all of that from him.

Most of what I have written is crap, because I have written literally thousands of songs in my lifetime.  Sadly, I have thrown away all of my old handwritten and typed lyrics that I collected since my earliest attempts.  I wish I hadn’t, especially since my 12-year old son is now honing his own craft, but in two separate fits of passion, I threw away all of those lyrics. The first time was when I was 13, out of fear that my friends would discover them and make fun of me.  Then decades later, I did it again with everything I had written since then, out of frustration from being what I considered a “failed” artist.  I seriously regret doing that, but it is done.

However, I have written what I consider gold, and I have kept about 100 or so songs.  Of those, I consider roughly 60 to be damned fine pieces of art.  Music is subjective, of course, like any other art form, but I know what I like, even if no one else does.  I am certain that even one of my best friends has no taste for what I write.  Even if I have never been able to snare an audience with my songs, I am at least proud of these few opuses.

I am not a typical songwriter.  As far as I can tell, there are two types of songwriters:  Those who have mastered the craft of writing, and can turn out a song based on some formula that makes them comfortable, and those that wait for the Muse to tell them what to write.  I am of the latter camp.  I couldn’t force a song out of me with a gun to my head.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with my Muse.  I wrote a song about my Muse that my former-wife always believed to be about her.  I still laugh about the first time I played that song to her.

Leave! Go away!  Won’t you please leave me be?  I don’t want you

I’ll miss you when I’m gone, and I’ll beg your return, but I don’t want you now!

I do love writing songs, but I could never shake the idea of being a failed artist, yet still bombarded with inspiration.  The songs kept coming to me—pouring out from me—but then they would just float in the ether and only my wife, my best friends, and I would ever hear them.  A couple years later, I wrote a song about my experiences with trying to find an audience to hear my songs.

I want to be an outcast like everyone else, but I’m too much of a loner to make the scene.

I only have two friends who leave the house, and one of them is tired of hearing me sing.

So that only leaves my wife, and she’s got nowhere else to be, anyway.

I have come to terms about all of this over the years.  I still write songs, and no one has heard the last 15 or so that I have written.  Well, that is not entirely true; I have played a couple Open Mics, and I debuted a couple new tunes then, but still…I am okay with it now.  It is my own gift, and it is for me to cherish alone.

However, what I am doing now is different.  I believe that I have a product that is palatable to a wider audience, and that this requires a very different style of writing.  In order to write my novels, I have to take the first approach to writing; following a formula of some kind that makes me comfortable enough to write on command.  To reach my writing goals, I have to carve out specific time in front of the computer and write specific words that follow a specific story.  I have never done that before.  Even with this blog, I sort of allow a stream of consciousness to guide my fingers along the keyboard.  However, with my novel, I have to select carefully each word I use.  Outside of academia, which I do not consider art in any form, this is a new approach for me.

I know songwriters who write this way.  I could never do it.  The art, or formula, involved in writing pop songs and number one hits has always eluded me.

I am learning, however, and when I sit down to write my novel, I am able to get the right words onto the screen.  I already have a clear vision for the novel that I am writing now, and I have rough outlines for two others.  In this sense, my writing is similar to the way I wrote songs:  I have no clear genre or category in which I label my stories; in fact, they are all very different.

My songs were essentially rock and roll, but some were country-rock, folk-rock, Grunge, alternative rock, pop, Goth…whatever the Muse commanded of me.  My Blog has several different categories: The Novel, cancer musings, music reviews, deep/random thoughts, and whatever else pops into my head at the time.

My novels, so far, are just as random.  I have a fictional biography, a post-apocalyptic survival tale, and a creepy ghost story.  I also have a TV screenplay idea that is different from all of that.

The difference is that I have to focus on the one idea at a time and work on that same idea whether or not I want to, as opposed to songwriting or blogging in which I simply write whatever I feel at the time.

The structure involved in writing fiction is what rattles me the most.  I am a free spirit; a wanderer; a mess.  To work artistically within a structure is a new concept to me.

On the bright side, however, with writing fiction, I do not have to worry about anyone thinking that my writing is about them, or even autobiographical in some way.  True, I put a lot of myself into my songs, and there may be some aspects of my own history in my novel, but the novel is fictional.

I mentioned above that my former-wife thought that one of my songs was about her, and that she took it personally.  That actually happened a lot.  One time, I called her out on it.  I had scribbled a note containing a line or two of lyrics that I thought might work in a song, and she started pouting because it looked like an unflattering depiction of her.  So, I wrote an entire song about that exchange.


Written by: Joel C. Marckx


I’ve got my light Muse and my dark Muse and they’re sitting in my ears

Shouting things they think I really out to say

So sometimes I write of passion and sometimes I write of fear

But I guess that it’s all true anyway

       Don’t they know that I will share these thoughts with you?

       Do they think that it won’t matter if I do?

       Do they think that’s it’s okay ‘coz it all needs to be said anyway?

So sometimes a thought comes to me and I wonder if it’s true

And if it really does pertain to you

Even as I’m writing I wonder what you might be thinking

When you’re reading what you think I think about you.

        Sometimes a thought rolls right off my tongue

       And it seems as if that thought just might belong

       But it doesn’t mean I’m talking about what you and I were talking about last night


             It’s fair to say it’s an easy enough mistake

             To think your face shows up on every single page

             And I guess it’s safe to say that you are always on my mind

              Just don’t worry about which Muse is gonna shine


If you ask me then I’ll tell you, and I promise to be true

But I guess I always figured that you knew

‘Coz you know who you are and you know all the things you do

It’s just a matter of each other’s points of view

Like when I said “I love her unconditionally, and I see past her own conditions”

You looked as if I ripped your heart out and broke it

But it just sounded like a line from a rock-n-roll song

So I wrote it

       Sometimes a thought rolls right off my tongue

       And it feels as though it really must belong

       But it doesn’t meant I’m writing about what you and I were fighting about last night


       It’s fair to say it’s an easy enough mistake

       To think your face shows up on every single page

       I’ve got my light Muse and my dark Muse and they fight for every line

       I wonder whose turn it is and how they’re gonna shine


At least I won’t have to do that with my novels!




Filed under Deep Thoughts, man..., Lyrics

5 responses to “A Songwriter Writes a Novel

  1. I really like it. She really was your muse.

  2. Craig Pasatiempo

    Is song writing for you a passion or a hobby? I kinda do the same thing though, but not as much as you do 🙂

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