As humans, we work best when we have a target to aim for. Imagine a basketball season, for example, that might end with no playoffs, no awards, and no official recognition for anything you’ve done. It would be hard for the players to get excited at all.
Songwriting is not much different; we’re supposed to think that songwriting is fun, and that’s supposed to sustain our interest and create inspiration, at least in part.
But if you’ve been finding it hard to stay excited about songwriting, you know that the simple act of writing often isn’t enough. We feel our excitement and interest-levels rising when we have something to look forward to, something related to songwriting, but bigger and more inspiring.
What’s the songwriter’s equivalent of the basketball playoffs? What represents that kind of target? Here are some things you could or should be thinking of that can keep you focused on the future, and excite you to keep writing songs:
- Performances. Simply put, if you’re writing songs but not getting them out there or performing them, you are working in a creative vacuum. Planning a house concert for several months into the future may be all it takes to get you pumped to write a set of songs to present.
- Recordings. Making a recording is a major source of creative excitement. But because informal recordings are so easy to do these days, I’m talking about taking things to the next level. If you can afford it, hire an experienced producer and do it right. Get excellent players, singers and make a recording of your songs that shows the world what you’re capable of as a writer.
- Festivals. Summer is a great time for music festivals, and getting a spot on the roster can be something that stirs your creative spirit and makes songwriting fun and stimulating.
- Songwriting Contests. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of contests, because there’s so many ways for a contest to reward the wrong thing. But if you do your research and find the contests that are reputable and professional, writing just the right tune can be powerfully motivating. (Always register the copyright of any songs you enter.)
- Inter-arts collaborations. As a songwriter, writing for film, theatre, dance or some other arts discipline offers you a kind of experience that takes songwriting to a whole new level. Most of these kinds of collaborations require you to work closely with other artists, making decisions where everyone needs to be on the same page. Some may find that limiting, but most of the time the rewards are worth the compromises.
Here’s the thing that all of those ideas have in common: they all require you to work to a deadline. That one simple feature alone — the need to have work done by a certain date — is powerfully motivating.
And it’s exciting, because it’s possible to miss deadlines. So meeting the deadline gives you a shot of creative adrenaline that keeps you moving forward as you plan your next songwriting project.
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