2009 – The Writing Process

Writing is always the big unknown when it comes to production planning. Sometimes the inspiration hits immediately, other times it’s like pulling teeth. With a ‘Year in Review’ there is the added uncertainty about what is going to happen between the time you write it and the time it is produced and released.

This year, as we do most years, we started in August, compiling lists of the big events of the year and identifying the song we want to use. This year we chose “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin because (i) it is in the public domain, meaning we do not have to get approvals to use it and (ii) it is mind-bogglingly catchy and infectious.

With the song chosen, we started writing lyrics the first week of September. There are two parts to writing our songs. The first is finding the “hook”. What’s the catchy line or phase that will serve as an anchor for the rest of the lyrics? The second is filling in around the hook with great gags.

Writing is an iterative process. We write, throw away, write, throw away, write, throw away, etc. The hardest thing about the process is killing your “babies”, meaning getting rid of lyrics you love but ultimately decide do not serve the piece as a whole. Ultimately, with “Never a Year Like ‘09” we had 11 versions of the lyrics before they were final. You can download a spreadsheet that shows the evolution of the lyrics over the course of the production by clicking here. You can see that the earliest versions were basically scratches of ideas whereas the differences between version 10 and version 11 are barely noticeable.

6 Comments

  1. AG
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    “Slight musical break (beat can remain) while Kanye says (or sings): “2009 was the BEST 2009 of all time. OF ALL TI-” Kanye gets yanked off stage by an old time Vaudeville cane.”

    Pretty funny. Too bad it couldn’t fit!

  2. Posted December 28, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Tell me about it. Sometimes it comes to you and it flows so well, other times, you beat your head trying to pen something on paper.

  3. Nancy R
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    This is an awesome way to keep track of your written conent. I create WBTs and you’ve given me a great idea for the audio track.

    Thanks!

  4. Mary Binda
    Posted December 29, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for including this. I write songs and poems, and love to get a glimpse at the process others go through.

  5. Ray Morrison
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Who are the five Senators saying “Oh wait it’s out!” on the public option?

    • Sara Portez
      Posted February 25, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Lieberman, Lincoln, Nelson, Landrieu.. ummm I can’t think of the fifth!


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