Writing to a deadline gives you your best shot at moving into the professional world of music composition.
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The word “deadline” probably conjures up negative connotations for most people. Why? Mainly because:
- a deadline gives you the impression that the work involved is unpleasant;
- a deadline implies that you don’t have the discipline to get the work done otherwise; and
- a deadline implies that once you’re done, the work will be “good enough”, but not necessarily your best work.
There is, however, a better aspect of deadline to think about: We associate deadlines with professional work. Amateurs don’t usually talk about deadlines that need to be met.
I would argue that if you’re a songwriter who is trying to make music a successful career choice, setting deadlines, and then tenaciously sticking to them, is a vital part of moving from amateur to professional.
And there’s a good reason for that. Think back to your first attempts at songwriting. There was an excitement that came with the completion of every new song, but there was probably also a sense of disappointment: it’s normal to see the flaws in your music. Dissatisfaction with your songs is an important part of getting better.
Disappointment has a way of weeding out the weak and leaving the strong. That’s because the writers that have the potential to go the distance are the ones that can see past disappointments, and keep going. Those that are truly headed for professional status use disappointment to better themselves.
If you find that dissatisfaction with your songs is causing you to want to give up, you need to start setting deadlines. Sometimes the music you write is a form of songwriting exercise, and you don’t necessarily need deadlines for that. But nothing gets your creative juices flowing more than setting a deadline.
Here are some ideas for how to work deadlines into your songwriting routine in a way that makes you feel productive and positive about your work:
- Develop a songwriting idea first before setting a deadline. This is because once you’ve got those original ideas formed, you know the kind of song it’s going to be. Some songs, you can tell, are the ones that might take a week or longer, while others are lighter and can be completed in 2 or 3 days. Be reasonable when setting a deadline; not too short, not too long.
- Treat a deadline like a work commitment. Don’t adjust completion dates. Set the day you need the song finished, and commit to that date.
- Don’t allow your opinion of your song to change your commitment to the deadline. In other words, as you work on your song, if you think it’s a bad song, or weak in some way, keep going. The result may disappoint you, but to reiterate a previous point, dissatisfaction with your songs is an important part of improving.
- Don’t necessarily set a deadline for every song you write. There are some songs that you want the luxury of taking your time. Remember, a song that takes a year to complete is not an indication that you’ve done something wrong. Deadlines will solve your problem of abandoning songs. Long songwriting projects can be works of love.
- Keep a songwriting journal. A journal will allow you to analyze your songwriting process. It offers a way to make note of how you responded to each deadline, and how to make improvements to your songwriting method.
And writing to a deadline gives you the feeling of being professional. It make songwriting feel like a commitment, something you view as important. And it gives you your best shot at dealing with writer’s block, and moving into the professional world of musical composition.
Written by Gary Ewer (Follow on Twitter)
Gary Ewer is the author of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle, which will show you every aspect of how good music works. It includes a 9-lesson course, chord progression collections, and a complete manual for how to add chords to melodies. He is also the author of “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music“, published by Backbeat Books.