Nick Cave opens up about writer’s block in new ‘Red Hand Files’ letter

"The lyrics are always coming. They are always pending. They are always on their way toward us"

Nick Cave has opened up about how he deals with writer’s block in the latest instalment of his ‘Red Hand Letters’ page.

In his latest letter, Cave explains how he deals with writer’s block when writing song lyrics. Cave explains that such block can “feel extraordinarily desperate for a songwriter” but that “in time, they emerge, leaping free of the unknown.”

Cave said: “In my experience, lyrics are almost always seemingly just not coming. This is the tearful ground zero of song writing — at least for some of us. This lack of motion, this sense of suspended powerlessness, can feel extraordinarily desperate for a songwriter.

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“But the thing you must hold on to through these difficult periods, as hard as it may be, is this — when something’s not coming, it’s coming. It took me many years to learn this, and to this day I have trouble remembering it.”

Nick Cave
Nick Cave (Picture: Getty)

He continued: “The idea of lyrics ‘not coming’ is basically a category error. What we are talking about is not a period of ‘not coming’ but a period of ‘not arriving’. The lyrics are always coming. They are always pending. They are always on their way toward us.

“But often they must journey a great distance and over vast stretches of time to get there. They advance through the rugged terrains of lived experience, battling to arrive at the end of our pen.”

Cave went on to reassure his fan “not to lose heart” if the lyrics struggle to arrive.

He said: “Our task is both simple and extremely difficult. Our task is to remain patient and vigilant and to not lose heart — for we are the destination.

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“We are the portals from which the idea explodes, forced forth by its yearning to arrive. We are the revelators, the living instruments through which the idea announces itself — the flourishing and the blooming — but we are also the waiting and the wondering and the worrying. We are all of these things — we are the songwriters.”

You can see the full letter here.

Last month, Cave performed a virtual gig at London’s Alexandra Palace.

In a five star review of the show, NME said: “Bearing a title bleak even for such a prince of darkness, new song ‘Euthanasia’ slots in gracefully to the deeply emotive 21-song set. ‘I look for you underneath the damp earth / I look for you in the night sky,” croons Cave, grief-stricken. But there is hope here too and an eventual feeling of acceptance, of coming-to-terms with it all…

“Finishing with a stark but lovely ‘Galleon Ship’ – the only full song to be taken from 2019’s harrowing ‘Ghosteen’ tonight – Cave stands and silently trots off towards a shaft of light coming in through an open door. He might still be alone, but after a performance like that, we’re with him all the way.”

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