When you first learned how to play an instrument, curiosity was unavoidable. Since you didn’t know what you were doing, you had questions that could only be answered with experimentation, trial and error, and failure. You set out to answer those questions one-by-one, and eventually you did. Most musicians don’t often think back to the early days of their training, but the curious energy that was so easy to access during that time is something that can benefit you no matter what you’re doing with your career in music. Here’s why curiosity is a vital trait in your songwriting process.
Curiosity says you’ll never know the whole story
If you find yourself relying on the same routines, you’re bound to come up with the same sort of songs over and over again. Curiosity is vital because it makes us live in a space where we don’t know the whole story about anything we’re doing. Yes, you might’ve mastered the main instrument you write with years ago, but that mastery and experience only carves a narrow path when it comes to perspective and creativity. Music is like language in the way that the ideas we’re able to express are boundless, but so many of us end up saying the same things over and over again through music because we’re not curious enough to try anything different. We think we know the whole story, but we don’t.
Songwriters often get stuck in a rut because they’re convinced they know everything about what they’re doing––their writing process, their instrument, their music scene, the music industry, their talents, and limitations. The stories we tell ourselves are powerful and not always true. Curiosity tells a person that no, they don’t know the whole story behind something. It gives them options. Because with curiosity nothing is fixed and things have the ability to change.
The more uncomfortable the better
If putting yourself in a curious mindset makes you feel comfortable, then that’s a good thing for your creativity. For a songwriting practice that’s gotten stale and predictable, a writer can inject curiosity into it by doing things as differently as possible. If you write lyrics first, try doing it last. If you usually start with an acoustic guitar, buy a drum machine and start there. You might think you know the entire story when it comes to what you’re capable of writing, but you don’t. Tear up that old narrative and write a new one.
How the benefits of curiosity can improve your music career
Curiosity is questioning, and asking lots of questions can only help you in today’s rapidly changing music industry. Again, you might think you know everything you need to know about your music scene and the music industry, but you don’t. Curiosity can help you get better shows, collaborate with other songwriters, and form new relationships with people who can help you.
Again, the stories we cast ourselves in are limiting. Embracing curiosity, even if it means looking stupid and failing, helps us break out of these stories and do new things. This can help you in your songwriting career and in all other aspects of life.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.