Are You a Dreamer or a Hallucinator?

What are you doing in your professional aspirations to turn you from a thinker to a doer?


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Songwriter dreamerI don’t deal a lot with the business end of songwriting. Not on this blog, and not much in real life. That’s because I’m more invested in actual musical composition. I’m interested in what makes music sound good, and what can be done to make it sound better.

There are others whose focus is on the business end of the industry. These are people who know what it takes to package and sell a product, who know how to identify and then target an audience.

If your intention is to become a better songwriter so that you can make a successful career out of it, you’re going to need to learn how to do both, at least at first. The music industry is brutally unforgiving of anyone who is a thinker but not a doer.

The music industry is also brutally unforgiving of people who hallucinate instead of dream.

A hallucinator is someone who sees or otherwise experiences something not real, but believes it is real. In the music industry, the term hallucinator is most relevant when applied to singer-songwriters who believe they are on track to building a successful career, but are actually doing none of the things that would make that a reality.

They are thinkers, not doers.

Thinking is risk-free. Thinking simply requires imagination. And it’s just as easy to imagine impossible things as it is to imagine possible ones.

Thinking requires nothing of you. It’s every bit as easy to imagine success as it is to imagine failure.

Dreaming is good; hallucinating is not. You can’t make it in business if you don’t dream. You won’t make it in business if you hallucinate.

I believe strongly in dreaming, because you need to be able to imagine success for yourself as a first important step to a wonderful future. But hallucinating is aggressively negative, and aggressively destructive. Hallucinating means that you are on track to be successful, but with an added angle: you are doing nothing to make it a reality.

As a singer-songwriter, you need to be:

  • improving your songwriting skills;
  • identifying and targeting your audience;
  • building your audience base;
  • turning your music activities into a career.

Improving on any one of those steps requires an improvement in the previous step. Getting better means asking yourself three things:

  1. What CAN I do?
  2. What WILL I do?
  3. What DID I do?

The first two questions are relatively easy, as long as you ask the right people.

The third question turns you from a thinker to a doer. The third question is harder.

Because if your answer to Question 3 is “I did nothing”, you’re simply a thinker, not a doer.

And the problem with Question 3 is that you can be doing things, but doing all the wrong things. The best answers to Question 3 come from learning from the ones who can truly help you. We must learn from the success of others.

So if you are hoping to make songwriting work for you as the basis of a career, you need to stop what you’re doing, look at those 3 questions, and ask yourself: What can I do, what will I do, and what did I do.

Your level of success will come from the quality of the answers you give to those 3 questions.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “From Amateur to Ace: Writing Songs Like a Pro.“)

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  1. I think I should write a book entitled how not to pitch your songs, at
    least forty naive wannabe songwriters, have directed, me to their
    Web Site of songs stating words similar to “Have a look through
    and see if there is anything suitable” Ignorant comments like this
    tells me straight away – Amateur Writer Doing Everything Wrong –
    To think that any Publisher worth his or her sort has the time or
    inclination to obey is downright stupid.

    No publisher cares if all your friends on Face Book or Reverb Nation
    believes your songs are great, these are people who dont write songs
    and probably never will.

    This song won first or sixth prize in the East Cheam Song Writing Contest
    Who cares ! the people who run these sites are either failed Writers, Agents.
    or Con men. Very rarely are they run by people who have a Professional
    Background as a top class writer or musician.

    If you have truly Great Songs , you will still get a lot of doors closed on you
    when you attempt to Pitch them.

    You have to do your homework, start small with a new act or semi pro

    Present your work in a humble fashion don’t come across as a know it all
    No one wants to work with un pleasant Know It All Amateurs.

  2. I understand the gist of your post and as a motivational tool it is very useful, however I am not sure I believe that “thinking is risk-free”. In the past I have found it quite difficult to imagine “impossible” things in relation to my songwriting. I’m sure that for many artists, myself included, the mental block regarding the business aspect of music is a difficult one to overcome. It’s easy to say, “Just do it.” But dealing with your own inner mental and emotional processes as you approach the “doing” is often necessary, beneficial, and really hard. In my opinion, the thinking part should not be underestimated.

    • There is no doubt that the mental block over the business aspect of music is difficult. And in fact, I’m not saying “Just do it.” I’m trying to draw a distinction between those who wonder why their careers are stalled when in fact they aren’t doing the things that are necessary to move forward. The difficulty of doing those things is undeniable. I totally agree with you that thinking should not be underestimated. I was referring to those who think, but don’t follow it up with action to do.

      Thanks very much for the comment,

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