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Paint the Lily

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

The Brief

We started the second week of workshops with a brief which tasked us to write about the life of 'I' before the physical body 'me'. Jenn Kirby also structured our day - giving us set times to focus on chords, bass-line, and drums; then melody and lyric; before finally recording a demo of the track.


First Response & Inspiration

Whilst I don't think Jenn intended for this to be a religious brief, I instantly interpreted it as such and - as a sceptic who instinctively recoils at the mention of spirituality - put up a blockade around the creative element of my brain. I struggled for a while to interpret the concept in other ways, and tested out some Oblique Strategies (Eno, 2017) in an attempt to spark something. Ultimately, I became very frustrated, threw a small tantrum, and gave up.


Challenging the Brief (because I'd have cried otherwise)

It quickly became apparent I'd have to alter the brief. During a Tim Minchin binge (the solution to all creative turmoil) an approach hit me.

Conceptually I leaned heavily on his beat poem 'Storm' (2009), which always resonated with me. My parents are both artists and sceptics, so had encouraged my imagination but drew a clear line in reality; contrasting speculation and belief. I also learned caution when daydreaming, as it became detrimental to my mental health when viewing the real world in comparison. In recent years I have taken steps to appreciate the tangible of the world around me. This mentality leaps out to me in 'Storm', and is what I think the crux of my struggle was.

I decided I wouldn't write a song about 'I before me', but instead would write about the dangers of getting too caught up in imaginative 'what ifs'.

Fun fact: 'Paint the lily, gild the gold' is a direct reference to Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John (1623).


The Take Away

Whilst I often use anger as a motivator, I try to avoid writing from frustration; where I struggle to channel creativity. However, as I had to present something, this wasn't an option. I persevered and by the end of the day had something I hated. As it had taken time to reach a conceptual theme, I wrote the song in a hurry and so viewed it as messy and rushed.

However, listening to it the following morning was like listening to a different song. In fact, the more time I gave myself, the more coherent and good it started to sound. I have habitually kept even fragments on the off-chance I might return to them, so to have almost ditched this out of frustration has been eye-opening, as I could have lost a potentially good song. I'll need to work against that in future, and always sleep on things (Kuchinskas, 2010)!



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