It seems like a large part of a writer’s identity has to do with their numbers.
Aka, how many songs you write. Scary.
We all seem to be striving to write enough songs to be considered prolific. We all want to feel like our output is high.
But, we’re all way too familiar with exhaustion and the burden of writing until we’re burned out and can’t enjoy it anymore.
So how important is it to be prolific? And, what even is prolific anyway?
Defining what prolificness is:
What does it really mean to be a prolific songwriter? Some common answers I’ve seen have been:
- Writing a song every single day
- Writing more songs then all the other songwriters you know
- Being booked solid with cowrites (doubles and triples) every day
- Writing X number of songs each year
- Releasing an album of songs every couple months
- Releasing a single each month
All of these are very different from one another. So what does true prolificness really mean?
Answer: The definition of the word prolific remains the same. “Highly productive” and “fruitful” are included in dictionary definitions. But prolific as a songwriter means something different for each of us.
Andy yet—it’s important for all of us.
Your output doesn’t define your worth as a songwriter.
Prolificness is a metric that we tend to hold onto a little bit too tightly. It’s very easy to use it to compare ourselves to others, and ultimately, find ways we come up short.
It’s like we use it as a super condensed way to evaluate our “goodness” or “enoughness” as writers. If I’m putting out the most songs, then surely it makes me the one of most competent, right?
Being prolific is important. Because writing a lot is important to your growth.
But it’s not the end-all be-all metric for your worth as a writer.
It’s still good to write more.
Why should songwriter strive to be prolific at all?
A number of things:
- You level up your experience really quickly when you write a lot.
- You learn things about your craft faster.
- You build up a large catalog of material.
- You learn how to quickly make work instead of editing work along the way.
- You become a lot less inclined to be perfectionistic or precious about your work.
- Chances are you’re going to share more of your work as you build confidence.
- You might even get opportunities in the professional world to actually make some real money.
Long story short, writing more will grow your songwriting skills.
The more you write, the better you get.
Why it feels so freaking hard: Being prolific vs. being enough.
We know that writing more will help us become better writers. But it’s always a lot easier said than done.
If it were easy, we would all be writing every single day and be absolutely over the moon thrilled about doing it. But we’re not!
Writing is hard. It’s hard in our souls. Why is that?
When it comes to prolificness, chances are, you’ve probably struggled with feeling like you’re not writing enough songs.
- Do I have enough songs?
- Do I write enough each week?
- Do I have enough demos?
- Is a three song EP good enough?
Read the bulleted list above again. What’s the one thing all those items have in common?
Did you spot it?
If you look at that list again,
They all contain the word enough.
(Is this hitting a little too close to home?)
With thoughts of “am I X enough” constantly running through your mind, you may find that you either a) get paralyzed with fear and stop writing, enforcing your non-prolificness. Or b) write your booty off in attempt to prove that you’re worthy, and wind up entering Burnoutsiville real fast, ruining your love of writing.
Which rolls into the damaging thought, “My songs aren’t good enough,” and then on into “I need to be writing as much as the pro’s,” and the self-effacing inner dialog just snowballs from there.
Enough is sneaky. It implies that there’s more you’re missing. Another milestone you haven’t hit yet.
It also implies you’ll never get there.
It’s super important to put some boundaries around the word enough.
The first step to doing that is to draw that line in the sand between you, and your songwriting right now.
You are not your songs. You are not your achievements. You are enough. You are more than enough. End of story.
With that undeniable truth in place, we can now start to set up some boundaries around the word enough as it pertains to your songwriting.
What should enough be for you? Because enough shouldn’t be open ended.
It’s super important to put some boundaries around the word enough.
Enough should be something that you can track toward.
An open-ended “enough” will leave you floating in an endless sea of oh my god what do I do next, maybe I should do what this person is doing and go this way and that way and then no this other way or—*head explodes*
Let’s set up some boundaries around the word enough so that you know exactly what you are striving toward and exactly when you arrive. So that you can celebrate what you’ve been able to achieve! 🎉
Beating your own high score
We know that everyone’s version of what is “prolific” is going to be different. (And that comparisonitis does nothing for us.)
So let’s talk about setting your own bar. Putting boundaries around the word enough, and defining what prolificness means to you. So that you can write songs, and enjoy your own growth along the way.
We want to figure out:
- What your own song writing pace is currently, and
- Is that pace getting you where you want to be
Let’s start measuring some data around your songs!
It’s that easy. Pay attention to what you’re doing, what works, what doesn’t, and are they getting you toward your ultimate goals of growth, joy, and more songs.
1. First thing, define a goal.
This is putting boundaries around [enough.]
Is your goal to simply write 10% more songs this month then you were last month? It’s a great place to start. Is your goal simply to grow as a songwriter and to just see what you’re capable of? That’s also a great goal. If your goal is to write 30 songs in 30 days, that is a booty kicking challenge for sure, but hey, let’s see how it goes.
Set a goal so that you can track your progress toward that goal. When you set a goal, all of a sudden your path becomes clear. You can easily see from point A to point Z what brought you forward and what held you back.
2. Keep a written catalog.
Keep a songwriting catalog something actually written down, not just a folder of lyrics. That tracks titles, co-writers, creation dates, publishing and PRO info, tags, and other meta-data that you can track. At the very least, you want titles, writers, and date written.
Every time you finish a song, put it in your catalog. I have a Google spreadsheet that does exactly this.
3. Add you up your end of month total.
At the end of each month, look at your catalog and tally up the number of songs you wrote. Do you see any patterns? How many co-writes did you do? How many solo writes? Do you feel like you wrote a lot this month, or like it was a leaner month for you?
Simply observe. Pass no judgments. We are just measuring your data right now. Note it, and move on. Keep writing.
4. At six months, assess.
Now that you have six months worth of data on your songwriting output, let’s take a look. Write down the answers to the following questions in your journal or alongside your catalog:
- What for the past six months do you feel helped your writing?
- What do you feel hindered it?
- What from the past six months can you re-create for the next six months?
- What would you like to never do again?
- What is sustainable for you?
- What would feel like a push?
Take a look at this raw data and parse out what feels good and sustainable to you, with a little bit of push outside the comfort zone. The idea is not to burn yourself out or expect more than what’s possible. The idea is to recognize what feels really good, keep doing that, and then push yourself 5% to 10% more so that you can move forward and experience real growth.
After 1 year
At the one-year mark, turn around and take a look. Assess again. What worked and what didn’t? Remember that your output has absolutely zero to do with your worth on this planet.
Join a community and challenge your self
A great way to start writing more songs is to challenge yourself by getting outside of your comfort zone, and joining a community that will help hold you accountable. SongFancy has two amazing communities that you can join: The 5 in 5 Song Challenge and and Live Write-Ins.
The 5 in 5 Song Challenge is a free song writing challenge where participants write five songs in five days. That’s a song a day for five whole days. I give you a prompt to start from, and then from there the rest is up to you. Write the song, then come back and share with the group. Massive growth happens in this group every time we hold the challenge and I would love to invite you to come join in on the fun with us.
Live Write-Ins is my monthly membership where we meet weekly to write, do songwriting exercises, and collaborate as a community on our own individual growth. Think of it like a songwriter hangout session, and your weekly writing appointment with yourself. We help keep you accountable, you keep writing, and you’ll be on track to incredible growth with your writing and your catalog.