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To Get Past The Cliches, You’ve Got To Explore

Many of us writers get very discouraged when our first version of an idea comes out profoundly cliched, as it often does. It’s easy to feel that this mundane result is an indictment – an indication of a lack of talent, originality, musicality, dexterity, cleverness, soulfulness, and the like.

In truth, it’s usually just an indication that it’s a first draft.

If you think about it, the most natural thing in the world is for our early ideas to be the most familiar, overused ones. For most of us, for better or worse, that’s what’s on the top of our brains, on the tip of our tongues.

But here’s the problem – much of what we get in the first layer isn’t usable because it is trite, corny, typical, etc. (choose your own uncliched word for ‘cliched’). It doesn’t represent our deeper sensibility in an authentic way.

There is an answer… It’s simple… it’s just not that easy. It involves work!

This whole ‘problem’ is like saying that the top layer of soil, the one where everyone walks, is where you expect to find gold, oil, or other valuable, hard-to-find substances that everyone wants. It’s just not a realistic expectation. The truth is you usually have to explore to find the valuable stuff.

In songs, we’ve got to work our way through those top layers of soil – the readymade, overused cliches, both in lyrics and music – to get to the layers below… the layers below that are ours alone. It takes time and commitment to dig like that. Also hope and faith – because there’s no guarantee you’ll find anything this time – or ever, really.

So enjoy the exploring… and be careful to keep your eyes (ears) open for that nugget that shines through occasionally. It can lead to a whole vein of gold.

(Cliches have their place too… but that’s for another post.)

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3 responses to “To Get Past The Cliches, You’ve Got To Explore”

  • […] To Get Past The Cliches, You’ve Got To Explore […]

  • Good topic. I suspect sometimes we don’t go beyond clichés because digging deeper — into our own lives — can be uncomfortable. The discomfort of digging deeper in a lyric is only temporary. Later, the song will have a life of its own and chances are that no one will ask whether it’s actually about your life.

    I’m glad you said clichés can be good. So many brilliant titles use a cliché but in a way that pays off.

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