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She walked down the neon streets, and up again, and found her way back to the hotel. It was dark.

He was lying on the bed watching a band on television. A girl was sitting at the dressing table, also watching, a spiky girl in a black and white houndstooth dress. Athena spoke from the door.

‘I’m going home tonight.’

He sat up with a jerk. ‘Come in,’ he said, as if she were a visitor. ‘Athena, this is . . . ummm . . . She’s been showing me a song she wrote.’

‘I was just going,’ said the girl. The music was very loud. All these songs, thought Athena, are about the end of love, or its wrong beginnings.

‘Hang on,’ said Philip. ‘Excuse me, Athena. Listen. I like your song. Look, I’ll give you a tip. Go home and write it again. Take out the clichés. Everybody knows ‘‘It always happens this way’’ or ‘‘I went in with my eyes wide open’’. Cut that stuff out. Just leave in the images. Know what I mean? You have to steer a line between what you understand and what you don’t. Between cliché and the other thing. Make gaps. Don’t chew on it. Don’t explain everything. Leave holes. The music will do the rest.’

Some parts in the dialogue in bold is unclear to me.

Does "Just leave in the images.You have to steer a line between what you understand and what you don’t. Between cliché and the other thing. Make gaps. Don’t chew on it. Leave holes. The music will do the rest" mean "just use your imagination. you have to know what you understand and what you don't and find your way to write a song. you do not have to write every thing. The music will explain what you haven't written."?

Is the meaning of "Don’t chew on it" here the same as "Don’t explain everything."?

Explain: I think "It always happens this way" and "I went in with my eyes wide open" are the name of songs, am I right? after some search I found a song named "It always happen this way" but I didn't found a song named "I went in with my eyes wide open"

Source: The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

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Phillip is advising Athena firstly to take out the cliches - the phrases such as "it always happens this way" because everybody knows them. He wants her to keep the images, presumably the original metaphors and descriptions she has used in her song-writing.

You are correct about "don't chew on it. This image links over-explaining to the idea of making food too easy for somebody else to digest; it is better to leave people to do their own chewing.

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  • Lots of thanks. So are "It always happen this way" and "I went in with my eyes wide open" the phrases people usually see in songs? am I right? I thought they are the name of songs! and she wrote the notes of music! Aug 8 at 9:10
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    Not necessarily in songs, but they are commonplace in some situations.
    – Peter
    Aug 8 at 9:32
  • Thanks a lot, so can we say they are some commonplace phrases people also say in some situations? and Does "You have to steer a line between what you understand and what you don’t. The music will do the rest " mean "you have to know what you understand and what you don't and find your way to write a song. and when it play with music, music will do the rest"? Aug 8 at 9:53
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    I think the "steer a line" sentence is saying that she needs to be on the edge of what she understands. On one side there is what is well known, and thus not creative. On the other side there is what is totally unknown, not understood and not expressible.
    – Peter
    Aug 8 at 10:29

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