Sometimes, when you start to really work on your songwriting, trying to figure out what you can do better, trying to learn what makes a song tick, you might take a class, sign up for another mailing list, google the latest songwriting websites or go Amazon crazy reading up anything - everything you can find about songwriting. You can find yourself veering from one 'hot topic' to another, one author who you think nails it, the one website that's going to really crank your pencil. Woohoo! What a roller coaster!!!
Part of this is really exciting - so much new information. All this stuff you didn't know, stuff that you didn't realise was bubbling through the music you love, stuff that wakes you up at night - the techniques, the jargon, the 3 Most Important Things to remember, the 5 Keys to Success, the 7 Simple Steps to Superstardom! It's so stimulating and all you have to do is just do it - right?
You sit down the next morning determined to rip into the latest batch of new songs - this is gonna be a cinch. You start writing - but wait, you haven't used the Second Key of Success so you put one of those in. You charge along to the chorus - and proudly whack in one of the Most Important Things to remember - cool. Then, you 're ploughing through the second verse, faltering under the weight of 6 of the 7 Simple Steps. The song looks weird - doesn't sound too good either. Suddenly, it's not so easy as everyone made out. In fact, it's dumb and you don't wanna play anymore. (Could be tears of frustration at this point) The roller coaster has become a big spaghetti junction. Arghhhh!
OVERWHELM OVERWHELM OVERWHELM!!!
The good news is that this is quite a normal consequence of submerging yourself in any new field of endeavour - especially one that involves such an amalgam of creativity and craft. Many beginning songwriters who dig a little deeper start to realise there's a lot more to it that first meets the eye, especially when good songs can sound so simple. Not so easy as it looks.
But being overwhelmed is hard to get out of when you're in it. You don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but how do you process the feeling? What can you do to work through it? Here's a couple of things to reflect on.
1. Apples or Oranges??
As aspiring songwriters in our hyper-connected mass media mad digital world, we're exposed to more music than ever before. Recording production standards have developed exponentially and the rate of music generation and the number of folks that pop their work up whenever on YouTube is mind boggling. It leads to constant comparison - with some very average writers and performers, to really talented people at the top of their game. You can see Prince live with a single click of a mouse, or watch your third cousin from the left playing Raspberry Beret on the harmonica in his pyjamas.
A more realistic yardstick to 'measure' yourself with is your own progress. You may have some goals - some big, some small. Maybe you've written them down or have them filed in your reptilian brain. Even just making your writing a habit and getting one of your songs actually 'finished' can be massive progress. Not to be sneezed at. Having the guts to go to a workshop or actually show someone else your work may be huge steps, let alone firing a song off to a competition. One of my students rang me when she received her first royalty cheque. It was $NZ68, but you would have thought she had won Lotto! What have you done since you started your own journey ? It may be more than you think!
2. I am Songwriter - hear me roar!!
By spending more time writing songs, you are, in fact, becoming a songwriter! No shit!
The kid holed up in his dorm room writing shitty songs is still a songwriter. The kid worried about writing shitty songs so much he doesn't write anything...just isn't. John Mayer
This means you're changing the way you see yourself, and the ways others start to see you. It's a change of identity, and that's hard at any time of your life. You're absorbing a ton of new information, learning new skills and focusing on different goals. You may be doing something you've always actually wanted to do, and dammit, you're doing it! But it can contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed by provoking discord with those around you who 'just don't get it'. Pretty hard going through that on your lonesome.
So, reach out to like-minded folks who can support you - songwriting circles, music clubs, open mics, facebook groups, mentors, whatever. Surround yourself with people who support your new identity, who support you as a songwriter. It helps!
Hi, I'm Charlotte Yates and I can help you get better at writing songs.