Making music isn’t easy even under ideal conditions. If you’ve been a serious songwriter for years or even if you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to let doubt, fear, and even shame get in the way of your writing process when you inevitably run into challenges. Positivity might seem like nothing more than a self-help buzzword, but embracing it really can help you write better songs more often. When you allow yourself to step back from your process and let go of the burdens of expectation and ego, you’ll realize just how hopeful and positive making music is. You’re an artist putting something unique, human, and relatable into the world. What you do can truly make the lives of your listeners better. Here are four ways to bring positive change to your writing process:
Begin each session with a goal
Positivity thrives when it’s directed towards something clear and tangible, so begin each writing session with a goal. It could be to finish a song, write three vocal melodies, or start a new track by writing a beat. The idea here is that you’ll be more productive and energized while you write when you have a clear direction to step into. Big goals, like having millions of people listen to your songs are great, but not for bringing positivity into your process every time you write. Get as specific as you can, and make sure you create benchmarks you’ll be able to meet.
This isn’t a cheezy self-help idea but an essential survival tactic for serious songwriters. Make music long enough, and life will beat you down eventually through the inevitable pain that comes with rejection. This is a creative pursuit where it’s common to be great at what you do and never find an audience, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. You have to embrace hope, even a reckless silly kind of hope, to be able to do this song after song, year after year. You have to believe that every new song you put out into the world could mean something to someone and that your music has the potential to be successful. If you work constantly towards making better and better work, this hope isn’t that unrealistic. The magic of your own unique process will be sustained and cultivated when you embrace and prioritize hope.
See every new song as a fresh start
As human beings stepping into the songwriting practice, we’re each broken and flawed in unique ways. However, the art we create is renewed every time we try something different. Every new song you write is a fresh start, and that’s what makes songwriting so exciting and hopeful. We can shape our new music with the heavy burdens of our life experiences to make music that’s beautiful and human. If one song isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, you have endless chances to create something better and more authentic in the future.
Be kind to yourself
This is the most important item on this list. Hating yourself won’t do your music any favors. Negative self-talk won’t bring you closer to writing the best song of your life, and it in fact does the opposite. We sometimes think we can force becoming the best musical versions of ourselves through judgment and punishment, but if this worked we’d all be writing the best music of our lives a lot easier. It’s much harder to be kind and forgiving to ourselves when we make music. If you run into a dead end while writing, release a song no one hears, or make an album filled with songs that don’t reflect your best effort, it’s okay. Try again and again and again and try to let go of the judgment. Strangely, when you can do that, you’ll be able to focus more on what you’re actually trying to do, which is to write great music.
Positivity as a songwriter is one of the best traits to embrace alongside curiosity, bravery, discipline, and tenacity. By looking at the bright side of things in an authentic way, you’ll be happier, more productive, and more creative in your process no matter what kind of music you make.
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.