Finding Inspiration From Graceland

By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner

I recently watched a 25th anniversary special on Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” an album I have loved for years. I enjoyed learning more about the process of how he made this album and the controversy surrounding the album. I had been too young at the time to fully understand the controversy, and it was interesting learning more about it and his creative process as he wrote the songs.

During one part of the show, one of the singers from South Africa, who is a member of the group called Ladysmith Black Mambazo , talked about the trouble they had while creating a song for the album. He said, “the song didn’t want to work at all.”

It seems like such a simple statement, yet I found it struck a chord with me as I continue my journey as a writer. There are so many times when I am writing when a scene, a description, what happens next, doesn’t “want to work.” I have learned to do as they did, take time away and give myself time to puzzle out the problem.  I often have “aha” moments when I am brushing my teeth, riding the subway, or walking to work.  I rarely have them as I sit staring blankly at the blinking cursor on my computer screen.

One aspect I envied as I watched the special was the great collaboration that occurred between many talented artists. Saxophonists, singers, guitar players, bassists, drummers and many more participated in the making of the album. I watched as they danced, laughed, and found tremendous joy in playing with each other. It made me wish that writing weren’t such a solitary endeavor.  Have you ever felt this way? And if you have, what have you done to help alleviate the sense of isolation?