Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Songwriting 101: The Will To Start / Showing Up For Your Art

Here is the first in a series of "Songwriting 101" articles I have written to add a little encouragement in the collective ether.  Enjoy!!

Article #1:

Songwriting 101: The Will To Start / Showing Up For Your Art
by Spencer Michaud

So, the day has come. You've heard enough auto-tuned pop masterpieces and seen enough off-key Youtube Bob Dylans to say to yourself “You know what?, I've got talent!! The world needs my charming wit and poignant philosophical observations!!” The pain of NOT putting yourself out there has finally become greater than actually doing it. Congratulations!! You've got the first ingredient in becoming a successful songwriter: The Will to Start.

Whether you are motivated by the magic of listening to your favorite song or the righteous indignation of one you can't stand, the point is you are ready to throw your hat into the ring! The will to start is half the battle. One of the key ingredients to success in life is simply showing up for it. It's easy to recognize the need to show up for a job or for a doctor's appointment, but do you show up for your art?

Richard Rodgers (of the famed duo Rodgers & Hammerstein, you know “The Sound of Music” guys) use to set aside a time each morning to sit down at the piano and write. This was a man with a wife and two small children running around the house, but they all knew that for two hours each morning, Dad was off limits. Rodgers protected that time religiously and showed up each and every morning at his ebony and ivory temple. The muse rewarded him with over 900 published songs and 40 finished musicals over the course of a six-decade-long career. 


I hear a lot of folks say that they just don't have time to write or that they are only inspired at certain times of the day or year. Whatever the excuse, the fact is: you can only receive the songs that you show up for at your instrument or the page. Neil Young used to have 1000 songs for every ten that made it on one of his albums. Was every song a masterpiece? Absolutely not, but he increased his odds ten-fold by being consistently prolific.


So, how do you fit a little creative time into a life that is crammed with full-time jobs / school, family obligations, and an unrelenting stream of technological distractions? Start with making an honest appraisal of how you spend your time. Do you plop your butt down in front of the television or spend endless hours updating your facebook or twitter accounts? 

If you do, don't beat yourself up, most of us live in a virtual hurricane that is constantly threatening to engulf us in a tidal wave of distraction. But ask yourself if the way you are spending your free time is moving you forward towards your creative goals or keeping you stuck in the same never-ending loop of “what-if's”. 

Start with something small, 20 minutes each day (the equivalent time of less than one TV sitcom) where you turn off the phone, step away from the computer / TV, pick up your instrument and just be with yourself.  Listen. When the muse speaks, pay attention and make sure to take notes!

Check out part 2 of the Songwriting 101 series here:

Songwriting 101: Writing From Experience / Object Writing

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Spencer, it's too easy to put off songwriting, but you can't write better songs unless you write more songs, or continuously rewrite the ones you've already written.

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