I was coaching one of my favorite songwriting clients last week, when the floodgates suddenly opened. “This is hard! It used to be so much easier but now the more I learn, the more it exposes what I don’t know!" She went on to say, “It used to be fun, effortless. It just flowed out of me. Now it’s HARD!”
Felt this way as a songwriter yet? If not, you will. Writing songs is amazing, awe-inspiring, inspirational, miraculous, joyful, magical, and…really hard.
I know how she feels. You write songs in the beginning and it feels like a gift. Sets you apart from the crowd, everyone you know is blown away that you can do this. Friends and family become fans. They say things like “Your songs are as good as anything on the radio!", and you believe it. Until you don’t.
A nagging feeling creeps in. Am I good? As good as ____ ? On it goes until you have to find out. I always remember a story told by Tony Arata, who came to Nashville to 'find out'. Hadn’t even unpacked the U-Haul yet, and headed to the Bluebird. By the time he’d listened to the 3 writers at the late night round, he was bound and determined…to go home.
This was his 'tipping point'. He stayed. I’m sure he would tell you it was hard on every level, but he dug in and he stayed. I can guess from my own path that what followed that night at the Bluebird were hundreds of songs that publishers dubbed “nice”. The songs that killed ‘em back home were now “nice”. It's the kiss of death from a publisher, producer, or artist. From nice to classic is hard. Rejection is difficult, but not as much so as rewriting. Writing's fun, rewriting is...hard! It's what you do to get where you know you need to go. Tony stuck with it and eventually wrote the Garth Brooks classic The Dance.
Digging in or letting go is the 'tipping point' for most writers, myself included. As a young writer I headed to New York, Boston, Indianapolis , Los Angeles, London, and finally Nashville. It was hard, but I dug in. Learned from everyone I could, read every book, played every bar, wrote with anyone who asked, anything to just be able to call myself a songwriter and believe it. It's an ongoing process for every writer I have worked with and it's still amazing, awe-inspiring, inspirational, miraculous, joyful, magical' and, yes, really hard. And so worth it.
April 8, 2015
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About Mark Cawley
Mark Cawley's songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London, and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cuts in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website Song Journey created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one-on-one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists worldwide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach. In addition he is a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, a contributing writer to the US Songwriting Competition , a popular songwriting blogger and from time to time, conducts his own workshops.