Artist developmentSongwriting

Keeping a beginner´s mind in songwriting

There is a saying I like, which goes: “The beginning is half of every action“. It is true for a lot of people (and I feel creatives in particular) that getting started is the hardest part sometimes. I have to include myself among these people. I´m big on procrastinating until the last minute, and I tend to avoid taking up responsibility for things that matter to me a lot of times.

But why is that?

I suppose it all comes down to expectations. Expectations we or the people around us have put on ourselves. Pressure that feels suffocating. It´s the beginning of self-sabotage. A fear of failure. You do not want to disappoint yourself or others. So you stay away from trying in the first place. You know how they say, that “every failure is a step closer to success”? Where and when did we adopt this stupid mindset, that we need to be good at things before we even learned them? Who has narrowed our horizons so much as to think a first failed attempt is the end of it?

Would a kid not start to make its first paces, because it hasn´t figured out the theory behind it just yet? Would they wait until they felt confident, they could stand up and walk a straight line across the room? No! They work their way to it regardless of the outcome. They trust blindly and are excited to give it a try. They fall and stand up time and again. They trust that they will find away, even against all odds!

You see, a beginner´s mind is a blessing much more than a curse. Beginners are naive. And that naivity can be encouraging and productive. Any dreamer will know! Creativity stems from daring to think and pursue the unknown and impossible!

I have realized over the course of my artistic life, that as artists curating a beginner´s mindset is key. The more we become experts, the more we start following rules or expectations or set standards. In consequence the less we follow our innate instincts and curiosity leading us to less innovative paths. The more we focus on perfecting the craft and mastering things completely, the less room we have for uniqueness and originality.

The less we fail, the less opportunities we have for finding alternatives, and ultimately innovation.

So, what if we forced ourselves to screw up more? To try and play the fool? Instead of being all ego-driven, self-possesed artists that want to deliver perfect (aka lame) songs?

Song creation is an artform that comes with a lot of freedom despite the limitation of “only” 8 notes. There are tons of elements that help us re-arrange these 8 notes time and again. Groove, length of notes, note successions, chords, tempo, instrumentation, arrangement, energy, tone, mixing and so much more. There is so much to discover if you allow yourself to think simple and take one step at a time. To explore and follow your instincts. To try and fail. In our days and age we have so many options to look at songwriting like a big playground. We can record ideas and delete them or edit them in no time in DAWs. Think of earlier times, when people hat to cut tapes and not waste material. They had to be much more deliberate and intentional about things. In a way that is a good thing as it honors the art of writing and producing. The record-and-delete mentality devalues the process a bit, but holds more opportunities to keep that beginner´s mind! So, take a moment and be grateful for the options we have!

There is a wonderful video on Youtube in which Ethan Hawke talks about “playing the fool”.

Hope this will inspire you all to drop the perfectionism and embrace a beginner´s mind! Follow your heart guys!

Happy Sunday!

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