Songwriter - paper, pen

The Positive Side of Songwriting Failures

A few weeks back I wrote about the need to save your failed songs. That’s because you might be surprised how something that sounds completely lame in one setting will sound much better in a different one, and it’s important to leave that option open.

That’s got me thinking about something similar today: our negative perception of ourselves when we write music that doesn’t seem to work. It feels like you just wasted a lot of time. But there’s something to be said for accepting “failure” as part of the learning process, especially in the arts.

One of the difficulties that you must face as a composer of music is that you’re trying to write something that’s never been written before. By definition, there can’t be a template to follow that will result in a great song, and of course you wouldn’t want that template even if it existed.

And without a template, the possibility of failure is quite high. You can spend a lot of time working on a song, only to find that it misses the mark. And often, there seems to be no good way to fix the song, and you toss it.

Once you’ve tossed something, you feel negative about the experience. The entire experience. From the excitement you felt from those first few musical ideas, right through to the point where you ditch the effort and put your guitar down, you feel that you’ve just wasted a lot of time.

It’s not going to make you feel much better, but this is true: the music you write tomorrow will be better because of the “failure” you’ve experienced today. Every time you write something that doesn’t work, you learn something new about your process. In ways that you can’t know today, a song that fails has a way of creating a slightly different creative path for tomorrow.

Every songwriter who has dozens of good songs to show can also display an overabundance of songs that never went anywhere, never got finished, or simply failed to impress.

And for each of those failures, that songwriter’s path forward got nudged in a slightly different direction.

If today is a day that you just realized your latest song just sounds lousy, don’t despair. Your path forward just got an important nudge in a new direction.

Here’s to better tomorrows, and to better music!

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

display_sep_ESS_rdcThe how-and-why of song form… It’s part of Chapters 2 and 3 in “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”, 3rd. edition. READ MORE..

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One Comment

  1. Sarah McLachlan once said her earliest first songs she’d written will never be published. She’s my favorite songwriter, and I couldn’t imagine her writing anything crappy, but without those first crappy songs, she wouldn’t be where she is now.

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