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Nick Cave Opens up About Writer’s Block in New Fan Letter

Nick Cave, one of Australia’s most celebrated songwriters, has discussed the topic of writer’s block in a letter to a fan.

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Nick Cave has praised 16-year-old Tyler Hartfield for his "inspiring" song.

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Nick Cave might be one of Australia’s most revered songwriters, but even he isn’t immune from the notion of writer’s block, according to the latest entry on his Red Hand Files website.

Responding to a Croatian fan who asked what the acclaimed artist does when the “lyrics just aren’t coming”, Cave admitted that he often finds himself in this situation (which he notes can feel “extraordinarily desperate” for a songwriter), but reminded the fan that the lyrics are always indeed on their way.

“The idea of lyrics ‘not coming’ is basically a category error,” he explains. “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. In time, they emerge, leaping free of the unknown — from memory or, more thrillingly, from the predictive part of our minds that exists on the far side of the lived moment. It has been a long and arduous journey, and our waiting much anguished.

“Our task is both simple and extremely difficult,” he concludes. “Our task is to remain patient and vigilant and to not lose heart — for we are the destination. 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.”

Though he admits writer’s block in songwriting is occasionally an issue, Cave has had no issue in penning letters to his fans in recent months, with a number of communiques being shared during time spent in lockdown.

Recently, Cave jokingly responded to a crowdfunding campaign to buy him a piano like the one in his Idiot Prayer concert film, calling it “entirely unnecessary”.

“I really appreciate the lengths people are going to to secure me this lovely instrument, it is entirely unnecessary,” he wrote. “As Mike from Birmingham says, “Why don’t you just buy your own fucking piano, you cheap c**t.” Mike is right, God bless him, I really should just buy my own piano.”