Frustrated songwriter

Taking Full Advantage of Songwriting Dissatisfaction

We tend to think of dissatisfaction as being a negative trait. That word conjures up notions of being unhappy and defeatist. Certainly to be dissatisfied comes hand-in-hand with being a bit unhappy. But I would make the point that unless you’re dissatisfied, it’s hard to improve as a songwriter.

We might be tempted to use the words dissatisfied and frustrated as synonyms, but there is a world of difference. Dissatisfaction can be a positive state of mind, while frustration tends to stop you in your tracks.

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Not to sound corny about it, but there is something to be said for embracing dissatisfaction as an important part of the songwriting process.

For a songwriter, dissatisfaction means:

  1. recognizing that a song hasn’t hit the mark, even if you don’t know what the problem is;
  2. feeling that the answer to solving the problem is within your grasp;
  3. feeling compelled to experiment with various elements of your song.

That last point is a very important one. While frustration makes you feel that everything you do is wrong, a healthy sense of dissatisfaction does the opposite: it makes you believe that the solutions to your problems are out there somewhere, and experimentation, mixed with curiosity, will help you find the answers.

Frustration frequently leads to writer’s block, while dissatisfaction leads to a healthy sense of songwriter’s momentum.

It’s true that in the normal course of writing a song, you can move back and forth from dissatisfaction to frustration. How to keep dissatisfaction in perspective means keeping the following in mind:

  1. Dissatisfaction is normal. A healthy sense of “this doesn’t sound right” is what keeps you moving in the right direction.
  2. Dissatisfaction stimulates your sense of creativity. It compels you to put things together in different ways, to too ideas out and add new ones. Dissatisfaction is part of the creative process.
  3. Dissatisfaction is part of improving, especially in the arts. When you write a song, you’re creating something no one has ever heard before — not even you! In that respect, creating new music doesn’t mean that you’re looking for a specific answer to a problem. It simply means that you get to say when the process is finished.

So as a songwriter, take full advantage of dissatisfaction. Don’t let discontentment with the state of your song translate itself into a negative emotion.

Dissatisfaction is normal, and, I would argue, crucial to creating great music.

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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