If songwriting is what you want to do for a living, you better beware that this job is a lot harder than you might think. Obvioulsy, it is not hard in a physical sense and most songwriters will say that it is a privilege to be working in this domain, but a business that requires you to lay bare your emotions is definitely not “easy”.
Running a business is best done with a rational approach and a certain audacity when it comes to weighing profit against passion. Songwriting is more than that though! You have to be able to do both. Be as passionate as you can be and as smart and sometimes unapologetic as can be in the way you manage your income streams.
Knowing all that, I want to focus on a topic that we all deal with now and then: Frustration! You might struggle to balance your songwriting with your business approach, but even aside from the business, songwriting is a profession that´s not easy to plan and execute at all. Some days you might be full of inspiration and writing songs within 5 minutes, other days you might feel like a hypocrite and fall trap to imposter syndrome or just not come up with anything at all. Doubts and frustration are normal and can weigh you down, but they should never make you stop progressing.
Let´s look into some of the most common reasons for frustrated songwriter syndrome and how to fix your mindset.
Do you ever doubt your skills as a songwriter? Do you ever wonder whether you really have got what it takes to move ahead in your art and career? Do you ever feel like you are good at writing certain tunes, but not as versatile or sophisticated as your competition? I do not even like the word competition, but prefer the word “colleagues”. Music is about love and connection, not about competition.
So, if you ever doubt yourself, I want you to know that that doubt is a gift! Doubt means you wish you could do better, and that ultimately means you still have room for progress. That is one powerful motivation for a songwriter to keep “looking” for that perfect song. Yes, it can hurt to not feel like you are where you want to be yet, but at the same time, if you can embrace some sort of constant search without ever arriving, that will help you grow as a writer and artist. Embrace your doubt! It is an enabler!
Look for opportunities within your limitations
Now, if you feel like you always give it your best, but are never meeting your own expectations, then do what you do best! Get creative! Look for workarounds. What is it that isn´t working? Is it the melody of your song? Instead of coming up with an alternate version straight away, think about how harmonies and instrumentation could support your songs message. Is it your singing? Think about how the magic of recording can help you “fake it till you make it”. Is it your poor guitar or piano playing? Think about hiring a professional. Whatever it is that is not working, think of ways to make it work despite your current flaws.
Step away, breathe and come back
One thing I do, when I feel really frustrated and full of insecurity is to step away from my song or from songwriting alltogether for a bit. Focus on cooking or painting or other creative things that satisfy your soul and give it some time. A lot of times, coming back to your work, you end up not finding it as bad after all and you might have new strenght to change whatever needs changing. Or, if you end up really disliking it, you might be ready to let go of the song by now and start working on new things. Stepping away helps us gain some clarity and objectivity. I will always recommend that!
Remember that mastery takes 10.000 hours
Last not least, if you are beating yourself up because all that you do sucks, remember that Rome wasn´t built in a day. There is a saying that becoming a master at something you need to invest at least 10.000 hours of practice and learning. Have you really worked as hard as you could? If not, relax. There is still time and time is on your side!
Remember to just keep on writing! Always!
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