I’ve long been awed by the song, “Feeling Good,” as sung by Nina Simone. It slays me every time I hear it. The lyrics by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse (I don’t know who to credit, exactly) are so simple, yet convey such depth of feeling.
Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good
Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree you know how I feel
Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel
And when the horns kick in, oh my.
Anyway, I’ve been writing and re-writing a scene in a new book. So far, it feels like every decision I make is the wrong one. Every path, the wrong one. I try to squeeze some background information into dialogue, it sounds false. I try it with straight exposition, it drags. I’m wrestling with the problem of “set-up,” an issue I’ve faced dozens of times with Jigsaw Jones, and I’m still searching, slashing, deleting, surrendering.
But I did wake up this morning with that song in my head, and I thought about my main character, Samantha, looking up at the clouds — something I wanted her to do, an aspect of her character — and that’s the feeling in her heart. She sees a bird soaring high and she knows how it feels.
Over coffee, I scribbled on a sheet of paper:
Sam was a cloud watcher and a sky dreamer. She looked up to admire a red-tailed hawk soaring through the clouds, and sent a silent message to that bird: You know how I feel.
Will this solve my problem? No, it won’t. Will it make it through the revision and editing process? No idea. But I’m going back in again, this song in my heart, and I’m going to bring that moment with me.
FUN FACT: Newley and Bricusse also composed the original score and songs for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Which, weirdly enough, inspired aspects of the story I’m currently writing. There’s a Wonka-esque character in it. When coincidence comes together, I often think, “Somebody’s trying to tell me something.” I figure I’m on the right track. Time to grab a shovel and dig in.