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The Three Personalities: How to get in the right headspace for writing, editing, re-writing

Learn to work with these three, and you can conquer any write! Today, you'll meet each "personality" in the songwriter's head, learn their purpose, and how to identify them. Then, you'll be able to use their skills to your advantage in the writing room.

Watch the video below, and download today's Lesson Materials below the video player. 

Lesson Materials:

Personality Chart

Cheat-sheet for identifying each Songwriting Personality.

Here is the chart from the video, with a closer look at the three personalities. Click the image to see it larger. Print it out for your writing space, or copy down in your notebook.


Allow me to introduce three key players in the songwriting process.

Meet the voices in your head:

  • The Artist
  • The Editor
  • and The Inner Critic

You're probably familiar with the Inner Critic.

For a while, I thought the inner critic was a potentially helpful voice that just needed to be invoked at the right time.

Put on pause for a while, while we're writing, and then she could be brought out when it came time to re-write, and that's when I could listen to her.

After all, the inner critic is just trying to toughen us up, right? She's just trying to make us better than we are, right? Help us write our best songs by pointing out potential weaknesses in them?


Wrong. So wrong.

Unfortunately, that is not how the inner critic operates.

I want to share something with you that I've learned over time:

Here comes the hot take.

Hot take: Inner Critics do not belong in the writing room.

No critics do.

The songwriting process is not made better when we approach any part of it through the lens of the inner critic.

Instead, I encourage you to approach your re-writing phase specifically through the lens of:

The Editor. 

(oo who is she?)

Let's take a closer look at each of these three voices.

In the lists below, you'll see the defining attributes of each of the archetypical "personalities." These attributes can help us to identify which personality we are operating from ini the current moment:

The Artist writes.
Can also known as the Writer. She is playful, scribbles down words with abandon, and is always curious what the next line will be.

  • The Artist generates.
  • The Artist is spontaneous.
  • The Artist jumps in.
  • The Artist throws everything out there that she has.
  • The Artist is curious.
  • The Artist asks, what if we tried this...?
  • The Artist is the feeling.
  • The Artist is in the moment.
  • The Artist lives in the writing phase and writing is about process.

The Editor curates.
The Editor loves the artist, because she provides material for the Editor to get her hands on. The Editor delights in creating by curating, consolidating, and forming.

  • The Editor consolidates.
  • The Editor arranges.
  • The Editor distills it all down to the most potent.
  • The Editor asks, does this say what we need it to say...?
  • The Editor is the communicator.
  • The Editor is in the future.
  • Editing is about the product.

The Inner Critic survives.
Sometimes called Resistance, if you've read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. The Inner Critic takes no risks and suffers no fools. (And, unfortunately, she sees everything as foolish.)

  • She is only concerned with avoiding pain.
  • The Inner Critic is fear driven.
  • The Inner Critic says "You've already failed."
  • The Inner Critic censors.
  • The Inner Critic sees everything that could go wrong and is sure that it will.
  • The Inner Critic cuts down.
  • The Inner Critic is not concerned with process or product or curiosity or communication—only keeping you on the tight and narrow path of self preservation, in a weird and maladaptive way, by insisting that you are a terrible writer.

See how working on a song with an Inner Critic in the room could be counter-productive? Even destructive? Ha :)

Instead, I encourage to do your re-writing as the Editor.

When we're writing, we are editing to a degree.

We have to be doing some sort of editing in the writing process, because we're going to turn this in to our editor later and we have to be somewhat mindful of that, right?

So when I'm writing, I'm spending the majority of my time trying new things, new words, freewriting and trying to get it all out on to the page.

At the same time, I'm also lightly curating. I'm taking the best bits and bobs from what I'm throwing on the page. I'm picking out what feels right. I'm picking out what feels charged. Risky, sometimes, even.

The re-write is where the Editor gets to really play. Where the Editor gets to do what she does best. Let her freak flag fly.

Artists and Editors are both voices for good, and they are on the same team. They both are here to help you write the best song they can.

The inner critic is only concerned with one thing, and that is avoiding failure.

Avoiding bad feelings.

Avoiding whatever it is you are most afraid of. Because it's fear that drives the inner critic, not the song. Not the potential of the song.

So, fear has no place in the writing room.

Have you ever come back to a song that you loved when you wrote it, and when you sat down to give it a second pass, your Inner Critic perked up loud and clear? Have you had a re-write with your IC?

When you sit down to re-write, know your audience.

And an Editor loooves an audience.

Editors like to know who they're writing for, so they can cultivate your song in the best way to reach them. To speak to them, to deeply move them.

Are you an artist/writer? Who wants to record albums and release your music? Playlist, go on tour, pitch to the radio, things like that?

Getting clear on your goals for your songs will call in your Editor to help you with your re-write. It gives her a direction to run toward. Go, girl!!

Know your goal for the song. Know your audience, if you're sharing your work.

  • is it to put on your record?
  • is it to play at an open mic?
  • are you going on tour and want to try out new songs/venues?
  • a 4 hour bar set?
  • is it to share online?
  • is it to release as a single?
  • is it to pitch to playlists?
  • is it for yourself and our family?
  • combination of things?

From here, you can start to see what adjustments you can make in the song that will serve you and your audience the best, and what won't.

For example, if you're looking for more tunes to put in your big 4 hour bar set, then you may want to add in extended musical sections to your song. To give your voice a rest. And to make your songs longer for your long set. A 16 bar section where you can repeat the same chords over and over will take some heat off of you if you need a moment to not sing, or even to chat with the room. So you can look at the song or songs you're re-writing and ask, will this song support a longer musical section in the middle? If it does, re-write it in.

If you're writing songs for a record, then you probably want that collection of songs to sound cohesive. Like they all belong to the same project. So you'll likely want to consider the collection of music you have already, and what you want your record to be about. Are you aiming for a certain feel? Vibe? Are you featuring only stories from a specific part of your life? Are you telling fictitious stories? Are you focused in a specific genre? When you sit down to re-write, see if that song fits the vibe you're going for. Does it work well with other songs you already have pinned for the album? What small changes could you make, if any, to make that song feel like it fits better into the world you're creating with your album?

Happy writing (and editing)!