Katelyn Holub

blogging about music, art, and creativity

Using Art to Convey a Theme


Remember all those literature classes where the teachers asked you to write a paper describing the theme of a novel and analyzing the different literary tools the author used to develop that theme?

I used to groan at the thought of having to pick apart a piece of literature like that. Often I felt like I was reading way too much into things the author did in order to be able to say that the use of such-and-such literary device was part of the author’s grand plan to develop the theme. Do authors really plan so extensively how they will foster a theme?

Now that I’ve started composing, I think the answer is usually “yes.”

*Photo Credit: kellinahandbasket, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: kellinahandbasket, Creative Commons

One of the most important stages of composition for authors and artists of all kinds is choosing a theme and giving thoughtful consideration as to how that theme will be developed. For musicians, we have both the medium of words and music at our disposal, and we should not overlook the powerful tools available within each of those art forms.

Over the past several months I’ve been slowly working on a new song about recognizing my weaknesses and crying out to God for strength, help, and purpose. The first couple verses are written, and I’m currently deciding what direction to take the second half of the song and drafting a transition/interlude section to guide the listener onward.

*Photo Credit: Jamie McCaffrey, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Jamie McCaffrey, Creative Commons

Throughout this drawn-out process of composing, I’ve reflected more deeply on the theme I want to develop through this song, why it matters, and how I can best convey my message to listeners. Here’s a preview of some of my lyrics so far:

“I might stumble but You’ll bring me back again/to the One I’ve been holding to”

“My flaws, my Achilles’ heel, they’re all that I see/but I know You can.”     

What are your thoughts about developing a theme?   How do you go through this part of the planning process when you are creating a work?


Author: katelynholub

I'm a law school graduate, singer-songwriter, believer, blogger, and general adventurer.

2 thoughts on “Using Art to Convey a Theme

  1. Heh Kate. It can be hard sometimes developing your theme/story. I have spent countless hours agonizing over finding a word to finish off a chorus or finishing a verse sometimes. In my head or my thinking, I see a completed picture, or maybe a feeling of seeing a picture, and how or what i want to say. Hard to explain. Almost sounds like matching external words with that, you haven’t used yet, to the ones that are already inside you, that you can’t hear until you can match the two together. Then your song starts to develop as you piece the two together. I think songwriting is far more complex, than what we give ourselves credit for.

    This is a couple of lines from a song I wrote 15 yrs a go, called 7 colored rainbows.
    This is one of my songs I had rewritten 7 times and had a lot of trouble finding those specific lyrics I was looking for to finish the song. But the struggle in the end was worth it.

    “Be your lips for I to kiss, for diamonds are to make you cry.
    And when I worlds do collide, be it for all to see,
    for 7 colored rainbows will shine , let them shine.”

    If you would like to listen to it in full here is a link to it. have to do a copy and paste thingy. Scroll down to fourth entry.
    Have a great day

    • Hi Darryl.
      Songwriting is definitely a lot more complex than many people realize. Rewriting and reworking songs can be a painstaking process. Got to have a lot of patience to be a good songwriter! I listened to your song “7 Colored Rainbows.” Thanks for sharing. The lyrics are quite poetic and the song has a nice ambiance/mood that fits well with the lyrics. Glad you were able to finally find the words you were searching for!

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