What If Your Songs Never Fully Satisfy You? Here’s How to Turn That Around

Do you ever find that while songwriting can be fun and rewarding, you rarely get that “wow, I really like what I wrote” feeling? Without having that feeling at least sometimes, you can feel more and more negative about your songwriting over time.

Back in the days when I was teaching in the public school system, I was doing lots of writing, mainly for my choirs, but also for instrumental groups, and then commissions I was writing for others.

And I remember that feeling of being so busy that I rarely felt as if anything I was writing actually felt properly finished. I always felt that I needed just one more day to get whatever I was writing just a bit more polished. I definitely noticed my sense of dissatisfaction with my efforts.

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There are any number of reasons why your own songwriting might not be giving you the warm feeling it used to. When you start to feel that kind of negativity taking hold, here are some things to think about and keep in mind:

  1. Dissatisfaction is healthy. Frustration is bad, because it’s often an early step towards writer’s block. But dissatisfaction simply means that you believe you can do better, and, depending on how you handle that, it can be a step towards becoming better.
  2. Dissatisfaction is normal. Everyone in the creative arts feels a certain amount of “I think this could be better.”
  3. Move on despite dissatisfaction. Every song you write will have aspects that aren’t “clicking on all cylinders.” Move on to your next song anyway. If you want, you can always return to a song that needs more work. Don’t let healthy dissatisfaction impede your creative flow.
  4. Good production can solve some song problems. Let’s say that your song is worrying you because the chorus doesn’t generate enough of an impact and you can’t figure out why. There are times when good a good producer at the recording stage can solve some of that for you. Move on for now.
  5. Don’t assume that other people’s dislike of your music is an indication of a problem. Every songwriter, even the world’s best, have people who dislike what they do. Some will love what you do, a few will hate what you do, and most will be in the middle somewhere. If that’s your situation, you’re probably nailing it.
  6. Make songwriting a learning experience. Treat problems with your current song as something you can solve in your next one.
  7. Don’t feel obliged to take every piece of advice given to you. Even top-tier producers can get it wrong, though you’re usually wise to take professional advice when it’s given. Remember that you’re always the final arbiter when it comes to your songwriting. You get to say how your song is going to go.

And just one further observation about songwriting (that also applies to poetry, novels, essays and anything else that gets written down): the best editing usually happens when you remove things, not so much when you add things. Songs get better when you remove weak bits, more so than when you add good bits. Think about that.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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