Songwriting frustrations can be common, but once you deal with them, there is great joy in writing music.
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Most songwriters can point to a “first song” — that first attempt to put melody, lyrics and chords together. And most have a bit of a giggle about it, as well. It’s not unusual to look back at that first song and see it as a mishmash of ideas, and not very good.
If you’ve recently made your first attempts at writing songs, you’re probably just now becoming aware of the mixed emotions of joy and frustration: the normal mix that comes from trying to be creative. Joy, because there is something satisfying about putting your thoughts and feelings to music. And frustration, because it’s usually not easy to do.
When songwriting is new to you, it’s normal to have a couple or even a few good songs that come tumbling out of you at first, and that’s exciting. After those first few, it becomes harder to sustain the creative process, and that’s when frustration kicks in.
And because two songs doesn’t necessarily make you a songwriter, and because you’re new to songwriting, you might legitimately wonder if that’s all you’ve got. How can you know if songwriting is something that you should continue to pursue? In other words, are you really a songwriter, or are you just faking it?
Your imagination comes mainly from your life experiences, and so it is what it is. But being creative — the act of intelligently assembling the bits and ideas your imagination comes up with — that can be learned, practiced and improved upon.
So yes, songwriting is almost always something that gets better and easier with time. But simply saying that doesn’t necessarily help you much if you’re feeling particularly frustrated.
Here’s a list of common songwriter complaints, frustrations and grumblings that you should consider to be normal, and not an indication that you should quit what you’re doing:
- It’s normal to have times when you feel uncreative (and unimaginative as well). Think of creative desire as being like hunger. You feel hungry, so you eat. Once you’ve eaten, you have a period of time where you feel satisfied, so you don’t eat. Then you feel hungry again, so you eat. Feeling creative, like feeling hungry, is cyclical, coming and going. Those cycles should be seen as normal.
- It’s normal to start a song, but not know how to finish it. Being creative means assembling bits of ideas. Sometimes you’ve got great ideas, but you’re stuck on how to assemble them. Every song has a different solution, and every day you’ll notice that your creative abilities are better or worse. That’s normal. Struggling with assembling the bits is what songwriting is. Sometimes it happens easily, without struggle, but most of the time it’s a matter of patiently experimenting.
- It’s normal to have a lot of song ideas, but not know what to do with them. So if you have what seems like ten different song ideas, sing them or write them down, then get to work. Work on one song, and when you run out of ideas (or interest), put it aside and start working on the next one. It’s not unusual to have several songs on the go at any one time.
- It’s normal to worry that you’ve mistakenly plagiarized someone’s song. You’ve just finished a song, but you have the nagging feeling that you’ve heard it before. The solution is simple: play and sing it for others, and ask if they’ve heard it before. Quite likely, you’re in the clear. If it’s too similar to an existing song by one of your songwriting heroes, it may be possible to change it. But the likelihood is that you’ve simply written a good song that’s come together easily, and the ease with which it happened has surprised and then worried you.
- It’s normal to feel distracted and easily discouraged minutes into a songwriting session. You’ve planned to spend a good hour working on your songs, but you find that five minutes in, you’re thinking that cleaning the bathroom is more interesting to you. It’s hard to sustain the creative process. It takes a lot of mental stamina and endurance, because it’s not easy. A good solution: start every writing session with 15 minutes of sitting and relaxing. Allow yourself to get bored; it will make your creative process come alive, and there is research that proves it.
I’ve just listed five common frustrations that all songwriters face. Sometimes, just knowing that others encounter them is enough to give you the encouragement to keep going. One of the best ways to stay confident and motivated is to talk to other songwriters. Join songwriters’ circles, and use social media as a way of tapping into the songwriting world.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages look at songwriting from every angle, and have been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. Includes “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base“. READ MORE