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In sports, teams compete rather fiercely during their regular season to get home field/stadium advantage in the playoffs. There’s a belief that playing at home offers a benefit, and that a team is more likely to win the series if they’re playing in front of a supportive home crowd.
There’s actually ample evidence that suggests the opposite, by the way. Some studies have shown that in critical series-ending games, the away team is more likely to win.
But that point aside, let’s at least agree that players on home teams get a huge psychological boost by hearing 20,000 fans or more screaming their approval when something good happens. That’s just basic psychology. We all need approval — someone who’ll cheer for us when we do something right.
In the music world we get to hear it all the time if we’re performers, and it’s nice. Not everyone gets that kind of public display of approval for doing their job. If you’re job is to empty garbage cans, there’s no one to stand by the side of the road and fist-pump when you empty a full can into the truck.
And in songwriting itself, there’s not really a lot of cheering going on. I’d argue that we cheer for performances, while we appreciate the song.
The question is, in the world of creative arts like songwriting, is appreciation enough? Do you ever feel that while you like the fact that people might cheer for your band, that no one is really noticing the work you’ve put into writing the songs?
Songwriting, especially if it’s not something done in partnership with other songwriters, can be a rather solitary activity. There’s usually little fanfare or even acknowledgement when the song is completed.
A finished song is a significant achievement: it’s a unique display of human creativity and musicianship. But like an athlete on a sports team, you’ll get your best work if you’re feeling motivated. So where do you find your motivation?
All evidence points to the fact that in the creative arts, the strongest source of inspiration and motivation comes from the act of songwriting itself. In other words, you’ll get your biggest thrill by hearing separate songwriting ideas come together within the same song.
You’re never going to get a cheering crowd when that happens, of course. But you do get a shot of creative adrenaline as you write. That kind of inspiration is better than any other kind, because it creates itself moment by moment as you are in the process of songwriting.
Sure, you’re not going to have a screaming crowd high-fiving each other when you do something well as a songwriter. But you already know that, so you go for the next best thing: set a regular writing schedule, and accept the eventual cheers of the crowd when they hear the performance of your song as, at least in part, cheering for the song itself.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
Each eBook in “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundles shows you the fundamental principles that make great songs great. Get a free copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process”