A finite amount…

By August 1, 2009 How To, Writing

26I’ve always been deeply affected by music. Not all of it, but certain songs that seem to take up residency in my heart, my brain and my ever present and pulsing emotions. The feelings brought on by the music as real as anything. Sometimes the songs become a soundtrack for what’s happening in my life. Other times my life becomes the script revolving around the melodies. I listen over and over and over. Never tired of it, the feeling rarely waning.

It’s like I’m in love or addicted…I can’t get enough – of the song or the feeling…or the story that my mind has created around it.

When one of these songs finds me, I’m always shocked. I had been sure that the last song was the last song. I’m not a musician and I can’t imagine how these artists keep creating composition after composition. The reason for my disbelief and incomprehension is that there are only a finite number of notes. It’s hard for me not to wonder, and worry, that eventually all of the combinations will be thought of, played and sung. How can they keep coming up with new ones. How???

Three days ago, I met another one of these songs. And it made me ponder this unavoidable fact of a finite number of notes once again. Only this time, as I marveled at a musician’s uncanny ability to come up with something new, I realized something else. I realized that I had an infinite amount of notes as well – only they aren’t notes, they’re letters.

There are only 26, you know.

The thought terrified me and comforted me all at once. The idea that one day all of the letters and their combinations will, one day, be used up plays on my fear that my writing will end, that all of the good books have been written, that there simply isn’t enough for everyone…and that I missed my chance while some of the combos were still around.

The reality that I write every day and never really struggle to find the letters and their configurations eases my worry that the songs will stop coming considerably. I can’t make music, but I can write. The musicians can make music – finding the right combinations with notes is just as natural to them as writing is to me. The music won’t stop.

I’ll fall in love like this and like this and like this and like this and like this and like this again. And I’ll find the perfect letters every time I sit down to write.

Image credit: Caro’s Lines

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Julie: It is amazing the variety that can come from just a few chords, just a few letters.

    I’m reminded of a book that we read in Playwriting class in college: The 36 Dramatic Situations by George Polti.

    This blog post here lists them all: http://ming.tv/flemming2.php/__show_article/_a000010-001347.htm

    Polti’s book was a revelation for a 20 year old writer. Here are all the plot lines, ever!

    You could almost synthesize most movie plots into two plot lines: a stranger comes to town and second, a person leaves town.

    But like melodies or lyrics or well crafted sentences, the devil is in the details.

    Luckily for us, your details are terrifically honest and always refreshing to read because of the window into your head and heart.

    Here’s another song that I liked once and because of your post went searching for it again.


  • […] last post about the differences, or similarities more accurately, between writing words and writing music really got me thinking about music’s powerful contribution to the writing practice. Why not […]

  • We do make music, it’s just another medium and a different sound. As a playwright, I’m always thinking about the sound of the words, how they flow together, the whole thing is it’s own symphony.

    I love the notion of having an infinite number of notes…. or letters.

  • CinWrites says:

    Your (our) realization that we only have 26 letters to work with gave me chills. I remember being about 10 years old and trying to write songs and thinking, “what is the point? all the good tunes and words have been used up by now.” LOL. That was 30 years ago and I’m still getting blown away by new music. It’s cool to make the finite connection between my two favorite things. :-)

  • […] or short – are true breaks where I worry if something new will actually come along, and like I wrote about here, I’ll wonder if all of the ingredients and sparks have been used up and I’ll never get […]

  • MarkRight says:

    Cool story as for me. It would be great to read more about this matter.

  • […] days when you’re sick of every single song on the radio and you wonder if there will ever be a new song that thrills every cell in your body […]

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