Suffering From Songwriter Burnout?

Do you feel that the writing of songs brings you more stress than joy? Read on.


Purchase “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle TODAY, and claim your free eBook “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro”.

Broken pencils - songwriter burnoutBurnout is a difficult condition to define, but everyone knows when they are experiencing it. It’s more than simply being busy. I know many people who have days that go almost non-stop from start to finish, but they would not necessarily say that they are burning out. In fact, they seem rather content with that kind of lifestyle.

Burnout is more than that. When you feel burnout, you typically experience:

  • Depression.
  • Stress and anxiety.
  • A sense of futility (songwriting feels like a wasted effort).
  • A feeling that your efforts are under appreciated.
  • An ongoing feeling that songwriting “duties” are overwhelming.

If you feel burnout, it probably means that it has been brewing for a long time. Burnout is the final stage of something that starts in the past, and then festers and grows.

One overriding cause/symptom of burnout, regardless of whether we are talking about songwriting, or any other activity or profession, is this: you feel that even a successful end result is not worth the energy and effort required to achieve it.

From a songwriter’s point of view, you know burnout is around the corner if, once you have written a song, and perhaps recorded or performed it, even rave reviews don’t seem to make a positive impact in your life or disposition. You always feel this brooding sense of depression and anxiety, and you catch yourself thinking or saying, “It’s just not worth it.”

There are many possible causes of burnout that songwriters need to know.

  1. You are simply too busy. You need down time to recharge your batteries and make the job of writing worthwhile to you. If you are always writing with the stress of unfinished chores at the back of your mind, songwriting will feel like more of an annoying distraction than the pleasurable creative activity it is supposed to be.
  2. You’re picking up a negative reaction to your songwriting from someone close to you. Songwriting is a very personal activity, and we benefit from positive reinforcement from family members and other loved ones. We like to think that others are proud of our work. There are times, however, when someone in the family is a “failed songwriter” who had ambitions to make it big. Even a slightly negative family member can wear your emotions thin. (You: “I finally finished my new song!” Response: “I’ll bet you didn’t put the garbage out, did you?”)
  3. Your audience base is building slowly or not at all. You can’t seem to take your eyes off your Twitter account to see how many followers you have, and you’re not happy with what you see. You may be pulling in small crowds to your performances. You may even be hearing a negative response to your last few posted songs. It may be time to rethink why you’re writing songs in the first place. Remember, even if you are commercially successful, songwriting has to be a personal activity that brings pleasure to you first, and then to others. A negative response from a YouTube video or a posted MP3 is not necessarily an indication that you are doing something wrong.
  4. You live in hope of winning the big songwriting contest. And when you don’t win, you can feel deflated and start to wonder if the effort was worth it. If you enter songwriting contests, send in your entry, and try to forget the fact that you just did that. Get on with what you enjoy doing. Some might advise, “Assume you’ll lose… then there is no disappointment.” A better way to say that is, “Assume the contest adjudicators won’t get what your music is about.” You’ll be happier, and you’ll still feel the drive to keep writing.

To prevent burnout often means that you need to sit back and remind yourself why you started to write songs in the first place. If your main objective was to become famous, it is more likely than not that burnout is around the corner for you.

If, though, songwriting has always been a creative outlet, a chance for you to create something that pleases you and encourages you, that makes your days happy and ultimately makes you feel fulfilled, then sometimes you simply need to put your guitar down and remind yourself of that simple fact.

And if you find yourself saying, “It’s just not worth it,” take that as an alarm bell that’s trying to get your attention. It’s time to stop writing for a moment, take a walk, and remind yourself why you do this in the first place.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

Download “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle$95.70 $37.00 (and get a copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro“ FREE.)

Posted in Writer's Block and tagged , , , , , .


  1. An essential part of being genuinely creative is the ability to look at things from a different perspective and see what can be changed to make improvements. By separating the demo making process from the writing of the song seems like it allowed you, J.B., to be more creative and most likely resulted in you recording better demos (as well as writing more effective songs).

  2. Hi Gary,

    A few years ago I experienced something similar,  I was not happy with my work demo’s the digital sound of my  vocals were  no where near the sound I was getting with my live band.

    So I decided to stop making demos and working on my song writing, the more I looked into  it I realised that every thing I had written , was good and bad for instance A great Chorus  accompanied  by a Verse that was not completely matched to the Chorus.  and vice versa I then saw that a great  Chorus is only as good as the way it’s set  up by what has gone on  before, in the verse and pre chorus .

    And these were the same reasons I was rejecting songs from other writers, who were making the same mistakes.

    I am a different person now,   and nothing goes on to a Demo that is not finished,  even then  when I have my backing tracks finished.  I find  fine honing of each musical phrase, is essential lucky I have a versatile voice, to do the majority finished vocals myself.

    But recognising when ones  voice is not right for a particular song, is essential so I always get  a Pro vocalist in to do the song justice.

    The hardest songs for me  are the numbers that require great harmonies, but the effort is worth it   when the songs are finished.



  3. Gary, you have written a very important and significantly profound post here. I want to let you know that I have been deeply touched by it.
    I am taking your course “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” and am at the ‘record a song’ part between chapters 1 and 2.
    I had just recently gone through an episode of burnout (one of several over the past 30 years of songwriting) and was asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” Since reading this blog, I am confident that I’ll be able to answer that question and get back to enjoying my songwriting experience quicker and stronger in the future. Thank you, brother.

    • Hello Philip, and thanks so much for writing. Here’s hoping that any bouts of burnout are short-lived with manageable solutions for you.

      All the best,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.