For this week, I had the privilege and absolute pleasure of working with Northern Ontario singer-songwriter, Robyn Dewar. My previous co-writing experience has involved being in the same room with the other writer(s), so I wasn't sure how this would work, since we live on opposite sides of the country. After a couple of emails exploring a possible theme, we made contact over the phone and what I thought would just be a brainstorming session quickly evolved into a first verse, second verse, chorus and in under two hours we had a song! Robyn and I worked really well together -- our personalities meshed so well and I felt comfortable sharing ideas and warbling out tentative lines as we explored the concept of "Borrowed Time." I felt like it was a collaboration in every sense of the word, with each of us working in service of the song.
Robyn had the idea, which we each did some advance free writing on. We spent some time sharing our thoughts on the themes of not having enough time, 'wasting' time on things that don't matter in the long-run, and being so short of time that we have to impose on the time of others (being late, asking for help, etc..). Robyn related a story that got us thinking about the concept of time as money. It's an interesting parallel. Just as the financial economy is strained and people struggle to make ends meet, our personal and collective economies of time are also under pressure. We have to spend time making a living, yes. But we are also inundated with information, details, requests for our attention (a lot of it through the multimedia that is all around us), and many of us spread ourselves too thin, running from one activity to the next, never really having or taking the time to slow down and savour the moment. I know I've certainly been feeling like that lately. We have to be more and more discerning about where we spend our time, where we put our focus.
In the end we are all on 'borrowed time' -- ultimately, we have no control of or knowledge of how much time we are granted on this earth. "Tick tock, tick tock." But we do have power over how we choose to spend a lot of our time. While we were writing, I was reminded of T.S. Eliot's poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," in which the protagonist muses, "In a minute there is time/ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse." I know it's taken out of context, but it makes me think of how a lot of people (myself included), spend huge amounts of time thinking about doing things, worrying, acting it out in our heads, considering all possible angles, weighing possible consequences, etc...yet, in a minute, in a moment, whatever we choose to do could be changed by something which is completely out of our control. The second verse alludes to this. What amazing things could we have noticed and experienced in the time it takes us to agonize over our customized Starbuck's order? Just one example from many that we mused over.
As I mentioned above, we wrote the song together over the phone on Tuesday. I cobbled together a work tape on my iPhone and sent it to Robyn. She called me back on Wednesday with a couple of edits. A few emails were exchanged in between. I recorded the lead vocal and acoustic guitar here in BC using Garageband on my Mac. Robyn has been recording with her friend, Jody, who also has a Mac, so (after a bit of research) I was able to share the in-process project with him via OneDrive. I uploaded it to the site and he was able to download it onto his computer so that Robyn could add her tracks. I am still shaking my head at the fact that we were able to do this with over 3000 km in between us! Three cheers for technology!
I am thrilled with how positive this experience was and feel so privileged to have been able to work with Robyn. I feel like I've made a new friend and I'm so proud of what we have accomplished - together!
And so we've come to the end of the challenge. I remember the moment when I clicked the button to sign up, the sinking feeling of "Oh-oh, what am I getting myself into?" It WAS difficult, but the benefits of this experience far outweigh all of the stress. I have 'met' some incredibly talented songwriters from across Canada, benefited from the constructive conversations taking place in our Facebook group and the great advice offered by Christoper Ward. The weekly assignments were excellent exercises and I know I have developed as a writer from participating in them. But I think the most important thing that I have learned is that I can do this -- I can make writing a bigger part of my life, even with my 'day job' and family commitments. The key is doing it EVERY DAY, and I have proven to myself that it is possible. So, no more excuses ; )
Many thanks to Christopher Ward, Lily Cheng, and the Songwriters Association of Canada for offering this opportunity. And thank you to my family and friends for your support and understanding!
Here is our song!
© Robyn Dewar and Kelly McQuillan 2014
Am E7 Am E7
Hey mister, can you spare me some time?
Just need an hour or two
My cup’s overflowing and my pockets are bare
Won’t you help me get through
Trivial decisions and constant revisions
Stealing my time away
So many places to go, and information to know
What flavour do I want my latte?
Tick tock tick tock borrowed time
I wish that I could hit rewind
Stop living off this borrowed time
There aren’t enough hours in my day
To meet all the demand
Pay, pay, pay the time man cries
As he throws out his hands
My father always warned me
Not to squander it away
Sow your seconds wisely
And time will be repaid
Give me a second
Could you give me a few
Give me a moment
How ‘bout two