If you write a bad song, you’re in good company. Every songwriter writes a bad one. Writing a lousy song is not a reason to stop. It’s not even proof that you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes, songs just don’t work out.
What if everything you write is lousy? What if every time you write a song, you feel that it’s lacking whatever it takes to make it a great song? Do you quit?
Keep writing anyway. You need to finish bad songs if you can, because that’s the only way you can do a proper evaluation of the problem.
Look at it this way: songwriting is like on-the-job training. Sure, you can read all about how to improve your songwriting chops, and I highly advocate that you do.
But the only way to take what you do and make it better is to finish the song, no matter how bad you think it is, and then try to pinpoint why you think it’s bad.
A bad song can be bad on many levels and for many reasons, and identifying even just one of those reasons means you’ve got a good shot at never repeating that mistake. You may not fix that song, but you can make your future ones better.
The Flow of a Good Song
There’s a flow of ideas that happens in good songwriting. One idea leads to the next one. I’ve heard of many songwriters describe their writing process as finding a song that’s already been written.
In that sense, the flow can get stilted and blocked if you’re constantly assessing how you think things are going. If you write a bit of verse, and then immediately judge it to be lousy, the flow gets interrupted.
It’s far better to keep writing, even if you think what you’re writing is inferior. Get the song finished, then record it for yourself and try to pinpoint where you think the weaknesses are.
By doing it that way, you have a good shot at fixing the song, making it better, and learning something about your songwriting process.
No one has to hear your bad songs except you. You need to hear them, because it’s the best way you have for improving your technique and becoming a consistently polished songwriter.
So never fall into the trap of believing that writing several bad songs in a row is a reason to quit. The only reason to quit is that you don’t get enjoyment from writing, and you can’t ever see that changing.
A bad song is simply a good song that needs fixing. And 90% of the work a good songwriter does is fixing bad songs.
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