For some songwriters, working on a song is a little like staring into the sun: you can do it only for very short periods of time before you have to look away.
That looking away can mean any number of things, depending on who you are. You might:
- concentrate instead on your playing skills;
- start a new song;
- turn completely away from music and indulge in activities related to a different art form;
- do nothing.
If you’re the kind of songwriter who finishes everything you start, and do that in a timely (and uninterrupted) manner, congratulations. You are a rare breed.
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But if you’re normal, you’ll reach a point where, like staring into the sun, you just have to look away. And at any given time, any one of those diversions listed above will be just right for you. You’ll either switch your focus to playing, or you’ll get going on your next song, or you’ll pick up a pencil and sketch something, or you’ll happily do nothing — for at least a short while.
The only one of those four in the list that’s potentially dangerous is the fourth one: doing nothing. That’s because if you’re doing nothing, you’ve left yourself wide open for self-criticism and doubt.
And you start to regard that unfinished song as a failure. The other three options are creative options. They stop you from thinking about that song you haven’t finished, and they move you in a new and positive direction.
That makes you feel good. And when you feel good, you can return to that song you haven’t finished, and you’ll be surprised at what a little time away from it, doing something creative, has done for you.
I think that in the creative arts, every songwriter needs to look away from whatever they’re working on, and recharge their batteries by doing something different. If you decide that you need to stop everything, you need to be ready to do what you can to think of that time away as being necessary and restorative.
Because in songwriting, stopping what you’re doing and replacing it with nothing creative can have the effect of making you feel like you’ve failed.
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