Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Urge for Going

My new novel is largely populated by people who are running away with something.  Some of them are running from love, others from hate.  Some are trying to outrun their grief while others are in self-exile because of past mistakes.  All of them have had the urge for going that is so perfectly articulated in one of Joni Mitchell's best songs, and one of the cornerstones for my novel's soundtrack.  I encourage everyone to create a soundtrack for any long piece of writing they're doing.  My novel soundtracks usually have about 75 or 80 songs.  Some of the pieces show up in the actual piece of work but others simply inform scenes.  All of them help me to get to the emotional truths of my characters and even sometimes reveal things about my characters that I wouldn't have known had I not tried to understand the music with which they identify.  In this particular video it is not only the words and music that are important, but the images, too.  I must have listened to this song a hundred times while working on Little Fire.  And each time I learned something new.

Only use songs in your books that truly play an important role in the work of art.  Never use a song just because you like it.  In this novel, Joni Mitchell herself becomes a sort of character because for a couple of my characters her music articulates all of the heartbreak and pining they have felt throughout their lives.  Mitchell is an artist who has always incorporated motifs of travel, loneliness, and heartbreak into her work so it's only natural that she be a musician featured in a book that deals with the same themes.

Also it is important to point out that when listening to a song that is this perfectly written I am not only learning some emotional truth about the characters' lives but I am also being inspired by such perfect writing as Mitchell's.  Every line is a wonder.  Surround yourself with art--music, photographs, paintings, films, whatever--that inspires you with its beauty and complexity.

Note:  Don't let the French at the beginning throw you; that only lasts the first few seconds of the film.


Urge for Going, by Joni Mitchell

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And shivering trees are standing in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go

I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I had me a man in summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell trembling down
Bully winds did rub their faces in the snow
He got the urge for going And I had to let him go

He got the urge for going
When the meadow grass was turning brown
Summertime was falling down and winter was closing in

The warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going, they've got the wings to go

They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I'll ply the fire with kindling and pull the blankets to my chin
And I'll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay jut another month or so
She's got the urge for going and I guess she'll have to go

And she get the urge for going when meadow grass is turning brown
All her empires are falling down
Winter's closing in

1 comment:

Sandi Farley said...

Have not heard that in a long time. Can't wait to read your book if this is where you're getting inspiration.