Nothing slows the songwriting process down as much as second guessing every idea you get. Silencing your inner critic, at least temporarily, is a good way of making sure that you give yourself a fair chance to get something written.
You need to give yourself the opportunity to hear what different song components sound like when you put them together. And that process of finding the right melody with the right chords and the right lyric can take some time. So while that process is working itself out, you need to cut yourself some slack.
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Being an objective critic is an important part of songwriting excellence, but you need to approach this sort of thing with balance in mind. To that end, here’re some ideas for taming your inner critic while also being suitably fussy with the music you write:
- Critique your song at predetermined moments. I wrote about this in an article a year ago, called “Evaluating Your Song At Every Step of Writing It.” All I mean by this notion is that you should allow yourself the chance to get enough of something written that it gives you the chance to assess it as a somewhat complete unit. So instead of beating yourself up because the second line of your lyric isn’t working yet, get the section you’re working on finished, then sit back and look at it. Everyone needs that kind of chance to get something working.
- Accept that while composing, some bits of your song can be weak while others are strong. We have a tendency to evaluate our songs as a whole, and even though we acknowledge that bits of lyric, for example, might need more work, we can slide into an attitude that the entire song needs help. I’ve often been astonished in my own writing how fixing one thing can make everything sound better.
- Don’t constantly compare your music to the songs of your songwriting hero. Allow yourself the benefit of the doubt, that your songs are different, unique and special. No one gains fame by being exactly the same as someone else.
- Remember that your song can be great and still displease some people. No one gets a free pass in the music world. Everything you write will have some who love it and some who don’t. The fact that someone doesn’t like your song is not the determining factor when deciding if it needs to be edited or tossed.
- The best way to be positive through the self-critiquing process is to give yourself time. If a song isn’t working and it’s not immediately obvious why, take some time away from the song and start working on something else. After a week or more, go back to the song and listen to it. With the passage of that kind of time, the problems become a bit more obvious and easier to solve.
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