Don’t get me wrong, compared to most work in the world, writing songs is pretty great even from the first song you write. That being said, once you’ve made the decision to take your songwriting seriously, there’s so much more to think about than just whatever inspiration happens to provide on a given day. I’m here to tell you, however, that the longer you write songs, the more fun it gets. I thought I’d put down a few of the reasons I’ve found this to be true.
When you begin to really study the craft of songwriting, it seems like you can’t write at all without getting bogged down in all of the things you’re supposed to remember to do. Are your rhyme schemes consistent? Does the chorus melody differ from the verse melody? Given that there are tons of things to consider when you’re refining your craft, it’s a miracle you can make it through the song at all. Well, as with any technique, the more you do it, the more it becomes ingrained and the less you’ll find yourself actively thinking about it. Once you’re no longer consciously considering technique, the songwriting process will get back to feeling musical and inspired like it did when you first started.
When you’ve only written a few songs, there’s a tendency to agonize over every detail and to constantly second guess yourself. The more songs you write, the more you’ll come to realize that your instincts are, indeed, worth trusting and that the details will work themselves out if not in your first draft then in a subsequent re-write. The more you’re able to relax and get out of your own way, the more open your creative channels will become and the less you’ll hinder your songwriting.
As my friend and hit songwriter, John Tirro, said years ago, “every once in a while you’re going to screw up and write a great song.” What I think John was referring to was the fact that early on we can occasionally show flashes of extreme brilliance in our songwriting. The problem is that when we’re new to the craft, the likelihood of repeating that particular feat is low. The more songs you write, the higher the baseline level of quality of your songs will be. There is absolutely no substitute for writing lots of songs when it comes to improving your songs’ overall quality.
In the end, songwriting is a numbers game. I’ve always believed that as songwriters we have to reach some critical mass of effort before we start to have success with our songs. Not that it’s exactly like this but if you think of each of your songs as a lottery ticket, the more tickets you buy, the greater the likelihood that one of them will be the winning number. On a slightly less poetic note, writing more songs simply improves your odds of the songs getting noticed and connecting with people in the music industry. I feel I should mention that it’s not just the writing of the songs that counts but your effort in getting your songs out in the world. In other words, don’t forget to pitch your songs.
Given that I wrote songs for fifteen years before I had my first major label cut, I feel like I can speak with a certain authority about how writing songs gets more fun the longer you do it. I’m living proof that if you stick with it, things can – and will – improve. Otherwise put, when in doubt, keep writing.