Can’t Let Go
Comes up in my coaching from time to time, I talk with songwriters who have a very real fear of sharing their work. Some to the point of it making the co-writing experience miserable and even some who can’t get to the co-write because they just can’t let it go. “It” being that lyric idea that might feel too personal or a melody that they’re afraid might be given to the wrong co-writer, never to return.
Some think of it as writer’s block, but I’m not buying it. Without fail, if I can get them to share the idea with me, there’s something good there. Maybe just a start but always worth putting it out there in a writing session. But they haven’t. They're stuck.
Easy to think just “get over it”, “what's the worst that can happen”? But the truth is it’s hard to bare your soul to another writer. I get it. But…you have to.
So What Are You Afraid Of?
- My idea is crap!
- They’ll take my idea and turn it into something I’ll hate.
- They’ll laugh at me.
- No one else could possibly understand me.
- No one will ever want to co-write with me again!
The bottom line is you can’t be precious to the point of keeping your songs to yourself and expect to get better at this. Maybe co-writing isn’t your thing and that’s ok but you still need to let someone hear what you’re writing or show your lyric to them, if for no other reason than to connect. I don’t feel art exists very well in a vacuum . Yes you might run into one of the 5 fears, you might run into all of ‘em but there are some things you can do to avoid them.
Find The Good
First and foremost, seek out good people to work with. To quote my friend Ed Hill’s current country hit, “most people are good” and so are most songwriters. Find ones that are on your same level, same path. Joining songwriting groups can be a great way of losing your fear of sharing. Sometimes by just hearing other writers talk about their process you gain insight into yourself. You’re not alone, not by a long shot. Try to meet with a potential co-writer before you show them your ideas. Have coffee, have a drink, get comfortable so that when you do share, you feel safe.
When I started writing songs it was all on my own, I didn’t know anyone else who wrote. I thought it was a magic trick and I imagine, (it was a looooong time ago!) I was pretty proud of myself with these first few songs. Then you begin to branch out, play your songs to friends and family but eventually you realize they love everything so…you play out. I formed bands and would try and sneak one of my songs into a set made up of all the cover songs the club owner demanded. You start to get feedback and some of it is even constructive:-) but you get your ideas out there and that’s the deal.
Maybe the biggest motivator for me was when I started writing with writers I admired. Sure you learn, but you also find they’re just as scared of the 5 points as you are from time to time and that helps. Now you begin to come up with ideas that aren’t crap, your co-writer takes your idea and makes it better! You share a few laughs, they “get” you and…you write with lots more songwriters.
Sharing your song ideas might still be a leap of faith but you’ll do it and you won’t be near as precious. Trust me.
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Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!
About Mark Cawley
Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN.