Craft Inspiration

How to Take Yourself Seriously as a Songwriter, Without Being Too Serious

Here's how to fight the constant perfectionism, love your songs again, and see yourself as a serious songwriter (without being too serious all the time). | SongFancy.com | Songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary songwriter.

One of the major hurdles for creative people (songwriters, painters, authors, what have you) is we are often our own worst critics.

One day, we love our work. We feel the immense sense of pride that comes from creating something out of nothing.

But then, the very next day, we can switch from proud-confident-songwriter-poised-to-take-over-the-world to what-was-I-thinking-this-is-actual-garbage.

Hopefully, you’re not letting those bad days keep you from writing. If you’re writing through the self-doubt, good for you! You’re halfway through the battle.

You’re going to write a lot of songs in your lifetime, and they’ll usually fall into one of these 3 categories:

  • I love this.
  • This is kinda ok I guess.
  • This sucks.

You love the ones you love (depending on the day), you feel pretty self conscious about those bad songs. And the ok ones? Where do you even start?

This is exactly why every song you ever write can’t be sacred.

If your songs are your children, then you’re going to have to understand that you’ll make some bad kids. Songs aren’t like actual kids that way. Some songs are just bad! And that’s ok. You’re going to write tons of songs in your lifetime, if you’re really writing. And the sooner you can let go of feeling attached to the problem children, the better you’ll feel about your art.

Here’s what you can do for each song your write, whether they’re winners of just plain losers:

If it sucks:

Situation 1: Maybe it’s not really that bad and you’re just falling into your of familiar routine of shooting yourself down. Sometimes we’re our own worst critics. It may be worthwhile to put it aside for a day or two and come back to it later. If you still think it sucks, as a songwriter friend for their input. If you both think it sucks, forget about it and move on to the next song. #badchild

Situation 2: Or maybe it really does suck and you know it in your heart of hearts. The silver lining is, you may find that in that totally sucky song, there are a couple lines that are actually really great. You can save the parts that are worth keeping, and write something completely new with them when you’re ready.

The takeaway: When a song totally sucks or is starting to go down hill, this is where you need to approach it with less emotional attachment. It’s okay to let this one drift away from you. It’s okay to really dislike this song or have no love for it at all. No one ever has to see it. It certainly doesn’t mean you’re bad writer. We all write bad songs. Time to put it away and move on to your next new tune!

If it’s kinda ok:

Songs that are kind of okay have a lot of potential to be great songs tomorrow. They also have the potential to be worse than bad songs.

If it’s “meh” and you have ideas on how to make it better, by all means, make it better! Turn that mediocre song into a great one. Need help? Ask yout songwriter friends. Post it in the SongFancy Facebook group and ask for advice on how to really make it shine.

If the song is suffering from a serious case of “meh” and there’s nothing you can (or care to) do about it, file it away under #badchildren. A mediocre song can be worse than a bad song, because a bad song at least makes you feel something. A mediocre song that elicits zero response in your listener at all is a sign of a song that is not making an impact.

The takeaway: If you can turn your okay song into a great song, congratulations! Way to flex your songwriting muscles. But if your “okay” song remains okay even after re-write to, chalk it up to practice and move on. These things are never sacred.

If you love it:

Way to go! You got a song you love. Congrats!

The takeaway: High fives! Enjoy your newly minted song and sing it from the mountaintops! I highly encourage you to share it with friends, family, your fellow writers in the SongFancy Facebook group, and play it out!

Not every single song you sit down to write is going to be your magnum opus. It might be, it might not be. Just write it. Write it first, then judge it later. Allow it to happen. Allow yourself to write that song. Then, after you sit with it for sometime, give it as many opportunities and rewrites as you feel it deserves. Make your decision and move on.

When we become too emotionally attached to all of our songs, we put so much pressure on ourselves as song crafters. Keep writing, keep finishing, and enjoy the process!

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  • Keren’s Songs

    Thanks, Sarah, that is very encouraging. :) Keren.

    • Sarah Spencer

      So happy you found it encouraging :) Thanks for reading!