I don’t play golf, but I know a few people who do. My general feeling about it is that I rarely hear anyone talk about the pleasure they get from the game. It’s always about their low level of ability and their general frustration with that. It almost seems that for weekend golfers, no one is deriving any satisfaction from it.
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That’s probably not true. Golf happens to be one of those games that takes a lot of practice and technical prowess if you want to be at all good. And by good, I mean consistently good. On some level, even golfers who rarely score under 100 are still enjoying the game on some level. There’s more involved than hitting a ball around a course.
Already, with just the few thoughts I’ve communicated about golf, you should be noticing a similarity between golfing and songwriting. Specifically, read these truths about golf, and you’ll see what I mean:
- Simply practicing is usually not enough to be consistently good.
- The worst golfer in the clubhouse can hit a hole in one.
- The best golfers in the world rarely rely purely on instinct.
- The best golfers train with someone who can see every little flaw in their technique and give specific instructions for fixing them.
- The longer you play golf with bad technique, the hard it is to correct mistakes.
- Bad golfers often can’t assess how detrimental any single flaw might be to their overall ability to play the game.
- Any flaw in a golfer’s technical ability affects the overall result. (If you can get to the green in one shot, but it then takes you 6 strokes to get the ball in the hole, everything looks bad in the final analysis.)
When you think about it, there’s not much difference between being a weekend songwriter and a weekend golfer. Simply practicing isn’t enough. Even bad songwriters can write a hit. The best songwriters rarely rely solely on instinct.
And we can go on: The best songwriters train, whether that’s by partnering with someone else, or through the studying of great music. The longer you ignore your technical failings, the harder it is to correct mistakes. And any flaw brings the level of your music down.
So what do weekend golfers do to fix these problems?
And what do weekend songwriters do? Well, usually nothing. There’s a belief that with every song you write, you’ll improve. And there’s a small amount of truth to that, but simply practicing isn’t enough.
If you really want to improve, you need to do what any determined weekend golfer who dreams of making it to the big leagues. They practice as much as possible, but they also work with someone who can see problems, and suggest ways to fix them. They become as knowledgeable as possible about the game, and they learn how the world’s best players overcame their own problems to become the best.
As a songwriter, you need to write songs on an almost daily basis. That’s the practicing part. But to be a top-notch songwriter, the consistent excellence that’s required means:
- Listen critically and objectively to music daily.
- Let others listen to your music.
- Get the advice of good songwriters and other musicians who can examine your technique from an objective distance, and offer good advice.
- Be willing to change the way you write in order to get yourself to a higher level of ability.
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