S.E.R.S. What I learned from two weeks of full time songwriting
Schedule - For the past two weeks, everyday I wrote, a lot. Every time I’ve read or watched an interview with a professional songwriter they always stress the importance of a schedule. Since I had a couple weeks off, I thought I’d give it a try. I spent between 8 and 10 hours a day composing; 3 hours free writing words on paper (or computer), 3 hours writing music with no words (usually on the guitar), and 4 hours writing and recording a combination of the two. After this experience, I am fully a believe in the time commitment aspect of songwriting.
There are two major obstacles to increased writing time. The first is the obvious one, not having available time. However, I believe professional songwriters are not magically inspired people, they are just people who have allocated significant amounts of time everyday to practicing their craft. The second major obstacle is maintaining a flow during the allocated writing time. It was my goal to make sure that the pen was moving the whole time. Most days, I didn’t want to write at all, and if I did, I had no idea what to write about. I probably spent 30% of the time writing incoherent gibberish or random words, 30% of the time writing sentences about observations, 30% of the time writing word lists, and 10% of the time writing something that slightly resembled poetry or songs. Obviously, I would have rather been coherent for a larger part of the time, but I was happy with the fact that I kept writing. I felt as if I had accomplished something even if 99% of what I had written was awkward, uncomfortable or didn’t make any sense. For the first time, I wasn’t judging myself for writing junk. I was just proud of the fact that I had written something.
Execute - Everyday I required myself to finish one song. Allotting time towards writing was a great first step, however I knew that for me, time alone was not enough. The second most important feature of my two week songwriting spree was having a deadline. As I mentioned above, a lot of what I was writing was nonsensical, so without a daily requirement of finishing a song, I think it would have stayed that way. Experts who study creativity, all say the same thing: creativity requires limitation. Without limitation or a problem to solve, there are no creative solutions. Although I’ve heard it said many times, I have now experienced it. For me the limitation was the requirement to finish one song. In order to meet my daily goal, I was forced to take the ideas I had floating around in my head and stitch them together into something usable. As it turns out, I think this is really where creativity hides in the brain. In these situations I had to find connections between two or more ideas, that didn’t exist before.
Record - Recording served as part of my deadline oriented goals. After writing the song, I would record a video of it and publish it on my YouTube channel. Surprisingly, the best part of this experience was sharing the songs that I really disliked. For me, it’s always felt disappointing to spend a lot of time on something, and then have no one like it. However, once my goal was to complete a song on time, I felt a sense of accomplishment, even if the song was bad. The end result was that I enjoyed the whole process much more. I also found that when I listened to my recordings it was a very different experience than playing the songs.
Share - I’ve known for a little while, that I was going to have some free time this February, so I planned my two weeks carefully. It’s played out pretty close to how I expected. I thought that I’d have ten new songs, some of which I would like and some which I would not. Not surprisingly, I have a mixed bag of new songs. However, by sharing my music, I learned my most unexpected lesson. I am a terrible self evaluator. I have always thought that I know when my songs are good and when they are bad. After two weeks of feedback from friends and other songwriters, it could not be more obvious; I cannot tell. Only an audience can tell me that. Which really becomes the overall take away message for me:
write more and judge less.
Thanks for reading!
All of my songs from the two weeks can be found here: