The following is an excerpt from Gary Ewer’s “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music“
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from pp. 75-76: The Good and the Bad of Criticism
Criticism is hard to take for most people, even if it is well intentioned. Though you may say you write for yourself, it is more than just a bonus if others like your music. If you are trying to be a professional or achieve popular success, pleasing others is crucial. Additionally, it is an important aspect of the motivation to be a songwriter. If you want to improve, you need to develop a positive attitude to constructive criticism from knowledgeable musicians. However, if you’ve posted your songs online, you will find that some people can be unspeakably cruel in attacking your music. It may simply be that your songs don’t happen to “speak” to them. Expecting your music to appeal to everyone is unrealistic. The problem is that it’s incredibly easy for people to express any opinion they wish and post it for all, including you, to see. Online comments about something you have put your heart and soul into creating can make the blood drain from your face and completely sap your confidence.
Don’t let it happen. Stop reading destructive criticism. The comment area on sites that feature videos is meant to drive traffic to the host site, and is usually unmoderated. “Flame wars,” as they are called, draw larger and larger numbers of people into the fray, driving visits up, potentially providing advertising dollars for the host. Most of the time the comments on these sites are of no use to a serious songwriter. Even so, it is enticing to know the comments are there, and completely demoralizing to see your music savaged by people who have probably not even listened to a whole song. Constructive criticism is always welcome, but you will find precious little of that on an online video site. Yes, post your songs on these sites; it is the best way to build a fan base for your music. But don’t let online bullies tear down your artistic efforts. The greatest singer-songwriters in the profession at any one time have their lovers and haters. It has always been that way.
It is normal to feel a bit of apprehension at the thought of performing a new set of songs for the first time. For some, the stress of that situation will be exhilarating; for others, the anxiety over how your new music will be received can be debilitating, and harm the songwriting process. In his article, ‘Learning From Evidence in a Complex World,’ John Sterman, Ph.D, states that “the fear of failure, of appearing to have made a mistake, often stifles innovation.” While it usually helps to think positively in those situations, you might benefit from trying a somewhat opposite approach: tell yourself that your audience expects you to fail.
This does not work for everyone, and you will know immediately if you are the kind of songwriter who will benefit from this kind of negative point of view. But for some, there is an ego boost that comes from reminding yourself that others expect you to fail. After all, they have never really understood your music anyway, have they? They have low expectations for your accomplishments, but what do they know? You’ll show them! That is how it works. You hear the negative reinforcement in your mind, and almost immediately you feel your ego – your songwriter’s resolve – begin to grow. You feel a healthy arrogance appear as you determine to show everyone your artistic mettle. Bolstering your ego by imagining the dismissive attitudes of others can help snap you out of a creative block and supply you with the confidence you need to get back on track.
Purchase “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music” (hardcopy) on Amazon, or most other online and bricks-&-mortar bookstores.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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