Successful Songwriting: It’s a Commitment

The simple act of sitting down to write is the start of a songwriting commitment.


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Piano keyboard with musicThe public could be excused for believing that there’s something magical about the creative arts. That the ideas just appear, and all that’s needed is a bit of tweaking. After all, for people who don’t write music, ideas do seem to come out of thin air. No one thinks of someone like Mozart or Beethoven, or Michelangelo or Rembrandt staring blankly, trying to come up with ideas. But every musician, painter, sculptor, choreographer, playwright or journalist has moments (or days, weeks or months) where ideas are few and far between. At those times, being creative doesn’t seem very magical.

There is no shortage of advice directed to songwriters for curing writer’s block and becoming more creative. On this blog I’ve offered suggestions for opening up your creative mind and getting songwriting back to being a joy again.

But no one thing works better than making songwriting a daily activity.

There is nothing that helps as much as scheduling your songwriting activities into your day and treat it like it’s your job. In short, to be a successful songwriter requires making a commitment.

Writing only when you feel like it makes you as successful as the marathon runner who only runs when inspired to do so.

That doesn’t mean that every day you’ll be writing a complete song. It may only mean that on any given day, you may spend an hour, and have only one “improved” line of lyric to show for it. You may only have one new chord progression. And you may appear to achieve almost nothing.

But the regularity of the activity, the daily commitment to writing, makes it far more likely that you’ll write something significant than if you avoid the task.

American author Cassandra Clare (“The Mortal Instruments”, “The Infernal Devices”, etc) has a page on her blog on which she answers the question, “How do I get motivated? How do I keep from getting distracted?” I hope you take the time to read that page, and the links she’s included, because everything she says about literary writing applies neatly and cleanly to the composing of music.

But her final paragraph puts the need for commitment in a nutshell. Think “write music” every time she says “type”, and “songwriting” every time she says “writing”:

Sit down. Type.  There is no secret formula to prevent you from becoming bored or distracted. Writing is work, like any work. It is not more fun or automatically not boring just because it is writing or because the story itself is exciting. Maybe you found the “actual writing” part easy, and revisions difficult. The problem there is that editing and revisions are also writing. They are just as necessary a part of the process as banging out a first draft. I know this isn’t very fun advice, but try to keep this in mind: how hard you work, unlike random inborn talent, is entirely up to you. If you work hard and complete your work, you’re ahead of 99% of people who want to write a book. Try to think of it as . . . inspirational.

-Cassandra Clare

If you’ve never scheduled your songwriting before, you’ll be surprised how amazingly effective it can be. Don’t create expectations for yourself. Just sit down. Write.

And that simple act itself is often all it takes to start feeling creative again.


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One Comment

  1. Someone said to me one time: Statistically speaking, if you read a subject every day for 5 years, you would be in the top 10 percent of your field. Its just application daily like you said!

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