While I have quite a bit of musical background at this point - classical piano, theory, orchestrating, film scoring, vocal arranging, etc - songwriting is still pretty new to me. I don't know exactly how many songs I've written that could be counted as pop songs (I should count someday), but it still feels like less than ten.

So there's this weird period of time where the song finally comes together, but where you haven't shared it with anyone yet. I don't know quite how to describe it - it's like it's both born and not born yet. Because there are two states of existence of a song, the state of existence that is its own, when it's completed but alone, where the audience reaction is completely and entirely irrelevant, and the one where it's out there, and the audience reaction matters.

You get conflicting advice as a songwriter, about what to aim for when writing a song. Obviously, since it's music, you want it to evoke an emotional response. And yet, if you write for the perceived musical tastes of others, you're kind of going in a soulless direction. So the answer for me is to write what I musically respond to, and then hope and pray that I'm tapping into something universal that will hook into others.

What happens is that after I have successfully written something, I feel great. It's a big rush or a release or something, and if it lives up to my standards, which it usually has to in order for me to actually feel able to declare it done, it means that I feel like it's managed to both successfully carve out its own universe, and inhabit it fully.

So there's that moment where the song finally fully exists. The last bit of music is written, or the last lyric is written (7:48 pm 5/31/08). Or perhaps it is the first time it is successfully run through with all music and lyrics - I have a few intense memories regarding that (Vagabond Blues being most notable). It's a sense of tumblers clicking into place or a puzzle finally being completed, except where the puzzle pieces were plucked out of life itself and you weren't even sure if they were supposed to be part of the same picture. It's an extremely satisfying feeling to bring a poetic order to something that no one ever knew was in chaos. So that's the journey to the first state of existence.

And it means I'm confident in the song, for what it is. The state of existence that is its own. Where the audience reaction is irrelevant.

But there's that other state of existence...

She Believes was written for a friend, and I'll tell that story in the future. I presented the song to him and got an initial reaction, but then like a time bomb all these doubts started coming up - about how it was being taken, whether the meaning of the song was coming across different than I intended... whether the emotional response it was generating was slightly different (and therefore possibly completely opposite) than what I intended, etc.

And I guess I'm experiencing that to a lesser extent with everyone else I share it with - I've emailed the rough around to a few people and gotten some responses. They're never quite what I expect. Some are underwhelming, others responding in an unexpectedly inspiring way; about what you'd expect when you are dealing with people that are all different from each other. It's fascinating.

But I have to say, there's this moment, where you're in the middle of the presentation - where you know a response is happening but hasn't happened yet. I was on the phone with my parents, having emailed them the mp3 of the rough, and listening to them listen to the song, and I realized that that period of time, before their reaction, was my favorite part of the whole experience. It didn't matter if it wasn't really their cup of tea. What mattered is that there was this sense of expansion, of something that used to just be inside my head, that had then started existing but only by itself, was actually becoming separate, and starting to live.

I hope that feeling doesn't become routine for me! I imagine old grizzled songwriters out there that wave it off with a flick of their hand. I don't want to be that.