• Art of Inspiration

    • In an interview with Paul Zollo, Dylan describes his creative process and how he tells the good thoughts from the bad when he composes.

    Bob Dylan on songwriting / 

    Once, Nick Cave noted that Bob Dylan’s ability to compose songs was simply enviable. He, Cave that is, could spend days, weeks and even months without finishing a song, while Dylan could compose two or three in one day. During an interview with Paul Zollo, found in Songwriters On Songwriting, Dylan explains that, to him, the best songs are those that were written very quickly. “Yeah, very, very quickly”, he points out “Just about as much time as it takes to write it down is about as long as it takes to write it.”

    Dylan is one of the few contemporary writers that value the unconscious aspect of creativity, much higher than that of rational deliberation. To achieve this, he tells Zollo, one must “stay in the unconscious frame of mind to pull it off, which is the state of mind you have to be in anyway.”

     Nowadays it’s hard to think about songwriting without thinking about Bob Dylan. For this reason, Zollo’s interview is particularly attractive. Dylan refutes the idea held by many authors —Bukowski and E.B White for example— who assert that writing can be done anywhere, and that if you wait for the ideal conditions to write, you will die without ever having put pen to paper.

    This proves one thing: everyone works differently, and when it comes to writing, there is no such thing as an infallible guide (although, incidentally, there are hundreds of them, and some are truly beautiful). But, the most important part of this is to be stimulated by our surroundings, to be able to differentiate between creative thoughts and those that prove the opposite.

    First of all, there’s two kinds of thoughts in your mind: there’s good thoughts and evil thoughts. Both come through your mind. Some people are more loaded down with one than another. Nevertheless, they come through. And you have to be able to sort them out, if you want to be a songwriter, if you want to be a song singer. You must get rid of all that baggage. You ought to be able to sort out those thoughts, because they don’t mean anything, they’re just pulling you around, too. It’s important to get rid of them thoughts.

    Dylan however, states categorically that the world does not need any more songwriters. “As a matter of fact, if nobody wrote any songs from this day on, the world ain’t gonna suffer for it.”

    There’s enough songs for people to listen to, if they want to listen to songs. For every man, woman and child on earth, they could be sent, probably, each of them, a hundred songs, and never be repeated. There’s enough songs.

    Unless someone’s gonna come along with a pure heart and has something to say. That’s a different story.

    But as far as songwriting, any idiot could do it… Everybody writes a song just like everybody’s got that one great novel in them.

    Paul Zollo was able to describe Dylan’s lyrical skills with one of the most precise sentences (and Dylan has been written about more times than we care to remember): “There’s an unmistakable elegance in Dylan’s words, an almost biblical beauty that has sustained his songs throughout the years.” There is not much more to be said. 

    Tagged: Bob Dylan, composers, inspiration