Songwriting delivers musicians some huge benefits that have nothing to do with money or critical acclaim. It’s a pursuit that is endless because we can always write better and better music, and it’s an incredible resource for helping us to understand ourselves and others. We often hear about the idea of songwriting being good therapy a lot in music, but it’s helpful to get to the bottom of what that really means. Here are five ways writing music can be therapeutic for musicians:
Helps process emotions
Making music gives us permission to feel our feelings and process our emotions. This is because creating music without feeling and emotion is essentially impossible to do––not if you’re trying to write songs that other people actually want to hear, anyway. The hard emotional labor that goes into songwriting pays off for musicians in big ways. It helps us to be more attentive in our relationships and more empathetic in the way we view the world. You can think of it as sort of an emotional awareness training benefit that you can’t get working at a conventional job.
Helps tell your story
Your story is important. How you were raised, what you believe, how you fell in or out of love––these are all human stories that can shape and inspire great music. Wrapping your head around who you are and what’s happened to you in your life isn’t always easy, but telling it through songwriting helps. We’re healthier and happier people when we can tell our stories not just to other people, but to ourselves. If you write music honestly and passionately, the songwriting process can not only tell you who you really are, but also why.
Reveals the humanity in yourself and others
Writing music is one of the most human and emotionally revealing things a person can do. This is because songs contain human stories not only by way of lyrics but also through the arrangement of sounds. Songwriting can help reveal the humanity in yourself and in the fictional and real people you write about. Familiarity with humanity allows you to be more compassionate to others and yourself, and that’s an asset that can benefit you and the people closest to you for the rest of your life.
Connects you to the joy of making something new
Something doesn’t have to be complicated in order for it to be therapeutic. One of the best benefits of writing music is that it connects us with the simple joy of making something new. Whether your songs are heard by millions or just you, you’re creating something that’s never been made before, and that’s incredibly special and exciting, but more importantly, it’s hopeful. Every time we write something new, we hope that we can make something meaningful and honest. Every song is another chance to connect with people through our art, and that’s endlessly exciting and rewarding. If you’re ever been jaded with making music, recognize that not all people have this sort of joy in their lives. You’ll need to remember this when the inevitable disappointments in music come your way.
Eases the pain of you and your listeners
Songwriting is something that eases you and your listeners’ pain. Countless human beings have made it through breakups, deaths, job losses, and other hardships with the help of great music. But writing music helps us deal with our own pain as well. By telling our stories, confronting our emotions, and throwing our energy into the hope of making something new, songwriting is truly a gift when it comes to coping with pain and disappointment. If pain isn’t something you seem to be able to outrun in your life, enduring it through music creation is one of the best things you can do. Songwriting gives us a path towards understanding and helping others, and also ourselves.
The challenges of seriously pursuing music are so overwhelming for some musicians that it can seem impossible to reach their goals. We can’t force success or make the world pay attention to our music. We can, however, thrive in our personal lives by creating music.
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.