Finding my Rhythm in Songwriting

By Arielle D., Age 14

This is my first year at WriteGirl. I’ve gone to a few other workshops, so I’m getting into the rhythm of how things work there. Since it’s my first year, each workshop is new to me. It’s always something surprising and inventive. It feels nice to be surrounded by such creative people. You can feel the freedom in the air.

I recently went to WriteGirl’s songwriting workshop. I was excited to go since I have always loved to sing. When I was younger, I would make up songs, but I would never write them down. And when I say that I love to sing, I mean that I sing at least six times a day. So I thought this workshop would be right up my alley.

 It was very interactive. First, well-known songwriters introduced themselves and gave us tips on how to write songs. It stupefied me that about nine different people said completely different things and had different takes on the same subject. That was a highlight for me.

We were also instructed to walk around the Huntington Gardens to look for inspiration. I enjoyed taking a stroll through the gardens. I learned what a Pagoda was, and I got a chance to see Japanese architecture. The environment was so peaceful that it got me thinking and voicing my opinion on personal subjects.

Places like this have an effect on you. They make you look at yourself from another angle and make you feel comfortable with who you are. You did not change anything about yourself, yet you feel lighter, happier, just because you changed your outlook on life. 

Visually, the garden was lovely. I had never seen anything like it. The floors of the Chinese garden were made out of sideways stones that looked like seashells. The koi fish were beautiful as well. I thought they could only have the colors of white, black, and gold. But I saw one particular fish that defied all odds and was a bright red with silver embellishments. The circular archways also stood out. They were short and stout, and this made them unique compared to the regular high archways and high ceilings.

 Once we returned to our room, we started covering the different qualities that make a song. We got into the components and what the purpose of each verse was. My favorite part of a song is the bridge. Near the end of a song, once the chorus has lost its gusto, a bridge is placed in front of it to give the chorus a little more edge.

Once we finished discussing what makes a song, we got the opportunity to write a few songs ourselves. I was excited. During the whole workshop, I was itching to write something and sing it in front of everyone. But when our time was up, I was told that the songwriters would pick a few songs randomly and then sing them for us. 

 At first I was little disappointed. I really wanted to sing. I decided to let that thought out of my head though. Soon, I began to worry that the songwriter singing my song wouldn’t sing it to the tune I’d envisioned. My song was a piece of me that I thought should be delivered in a powerful way. I started asking questions, on the brink of panic. I thought that the chances of my song getting picked randomly were very low, and I managed to calm down.

Then, as I was sitting with my mentor, Kate, I heard the first three words of my song. I was elated and amazed that my song was chosen. I was also delighted, because the songwriter sang it just the way I pictured. It was so wonderful! I felt so giddy. When the songwriter was finished, they said my name, and I stood up as more than 200 people applauded for me. My giddiness almost turned into giggles. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Outside of this workshop, I have written a few songs myself. One thing I like about songwriting is that it is very similar to poetry. You pour your emotions into every word so that it resonates with the reader—or in this case, the listener. But I think the main difference between poetry and songwriting is the emphasis songwriters put on specific verses or words. Songwriting is a complex art of emotions, ideals, and the perception of others.

Singer/songwriter Courtney Harrell performs a song by WriteGirl mentee Arielle