In songwriting and in life, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that things need to be perfect before you can start working towards your goals. Sure, you’d love to finish your debut album, but a few of your songs aren’t as strong as they should be and it’s just not ready. You want to spend more of your time making music, but you’re waiting until your home studio has the ideal equipment setup first. Or maybe becoming a serious songwriter has always been a goal of yours, but a voice inside you says you just don’t have the talent it takes to succeed.
Each of these scenarios are different, but they all feature some sort of excuse getting in the way of making real progress in music. Regardless of who you are and what you want out of creating music, you won’t succeed if you let excuses stand between you and your goals. The sooner you learn to work in less than ideal situations or even one’s that are just plain awful, the sooner you’ll start doing the things you want to in music.
Why it’s easy to let excuses stand in your way as a songwriter
On any given day that you try to write music, there are more possible excuses not to follow through than there are note combinations out there in the known universe: you’re too tired, too busy, the dog is sick, your roommate is always home and you’re too self-conscious about singing, etc. You get the point. If you feel perfectly comfortable and confident each time you write songs, then you are either very lucky or have a lot of songwriting experience under your belt, or maybe you’re a combination of the two. It’s very common for life to get into the way of your songwriting goals, whether it’s external conflicts or internal demons. The trick is to acknowledge your challenges and learn to create in spite of them.
The truth is that creating music can be hugely challenging even under ideal circumstances. Spoiler alert: if you finally get that perfect home studio setup or a different living situation without roommates, you will most likely still find it hard to make music a lot of the time. Music is not like a conventional job where you just show up and produce predictable results. Yes, every time you write you build your experience, but that’s a long-term gain. You could spend weeks on an idea that ends up going nowhere, but that’s perfectly fine. It’s all part of the process.
It’s tempting to blame everything we can when making music isn’t giving us the results we want when the biggest hurdle is usually simply the unpredictable nature of doing anything creative. Some days you’ll write and come up with nothing. On others, you’ll have plenty of ideas but none of them will be anything special. And on rare occasions, you might make something truly unique and memorable if you keep at it. But you’ll never get to the point of making the sort of music you want if you let each and every little thing derail your work.
How to keep writing music no matter what happens
Making music regardless of what’s going on in your life is a lifestyle choice. If writing songs is something that’s important to you professionally, creatively, or even just therapeutically, the only way you’ll be able to do it over the long term is if you make it a priority in your life. This means creating when you’re tired, when your roommate is around, or when you don’t feel like it. It means making music as often as you can by creating space for the process in your life. How exactly this looks and works is completely up to you, the songwriter. What’s crucial is the decision to keep making music no matter what happens in your life. Yes, take breaks and space when you need to, but keep coming back to process again and again, and you’ll eventually get closer to the results you’re looking for. The decision to overcome excuses doesn’t happen just once in a music career, but over and over again for as long as you decide to keep making 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.