5 Stinking Thinking Songwriter Thoughts



These kinds of thoughts keep a negative cloud over you and your writing AND they actually decrease your chances of success. If these thoughts creep into your head, kick them to the curb before they derail your creativity and your forward progress.

1) “My songs are better than….”

It doesn’t matter at the end of the day. Comparing your work to someone else’s sets you up to be discouraged and disappointed. The only comparison you need to worry about is your own. Are you writing better today than you were yesterday? If so, you’re on the right track. Keep doing that and you might just succeed.

2) “People just don’t ‘get’ my music.”

If people don’t get your music, it’s probably because you are not writing songs that anyone can relate to. Instead of chanting this mantra as if it’s a curse on your life, do something about it. Work at writing more relatable songs and correcting common lyric errors. Then, everyone will get it.

3) “I’m just waiting to be discovered.”

I have bad news for you here. It’s nobody’s job to come find you. There won’t be a knock on the door with someone begging you for your songs. Ever. You’ve got to get yourself discovered. It’s all on you to make the relationships, to write the hits, and to get people to listen.

4) “I would be so much farther along if only…”

You know the story. If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. I would have been a lot farther along if I had skipped college, not worked as a youth minister for 10 years and THEN started writing songs, but that didn’t happen. That’s water under the bridge and I can’t change it one bit. So, I deal with NOW and let go of what might have been.

5) “I can’t believe they didn’t call me back.”

Nobody owes you (or me) a call back. If a vacuum cleaner salesmen knocks on my door, I don’t owe it to him to open it up and let him in. I have every right to let him keep on knocking. I’m trying to “sell” songs. If the person on the other end of the line doesn’t know me or they don’t need any songs right now, they don’t owe it to me to pick up and spend time with me. Getting a call back is a courtesy, not a right. If I don’t get a call back, I just go about my business and look for someone else to work with Stick with positive thoughts that move you forward and leave this stinking thinking behind.

Write on! -MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter
and co-founder of SongTown.com

20 thoughts on “5 Stinking Thinking Songwriter Thoughts

  1. There are so many components to commercial success; not the least of which is luck, but you’ve got to be persistent and aggressive, both of which I’m not. The ability to write good songs is also a big part.(!) I was recently feeling discouraged and cynical, and wrote this:

    “It’s not for the money; that we know
    Because folks won’t come out to hear Lush Life or Killer Joe.”

    These are pretty obscure jazz standards that most people won’t recognize, and that was precisely my point. This is a song that, as Marty said, people won’t “get.” Not everything I write is like that, but I really felt good when I finished it.

  2. Despite all that is said, I do compare my work with others, and I’m glad that I do. Every once in a while, I have a good look at some great songs and see where I am sometimes lack and have to up my game. It doesn’t discourage me at all. It reminds me of what I’m shooting for.

  3. These are such great suggestions. I especially liked the suggestion of not comparing ourselves to anyone else, we all need to run our own race and support each other. Thank you!

  4. “I would have been a lot farther along if I had skipped college, not worked as a youth minister for 10 years and THEN started writing songs, but that didn’t happen.”

    Or maybe you learned something in college and as a youth minister that helped you be a better song writer.

    My time in classical music, especially my degree in music theory helped me to write better songs. So did all the time I spent writing poetry and a play and several novels. As did my time teaching high school English. Even totally unrelated life experience because songs come from somewhere – we’re not really writing songs about songwriting, after all. We are the sum total of all our experiences and that goes into what we produce now.

    1. I agree Lon. My point was just to accept where you are when you come to your songwriting journey and don’t bemoan the fact that you couldn’t or didn’t start earlier.

  5. We are all responsible for our own successes in not only songwriting but life. While we can’t control final outcomes, we can do a heck of a lot to up our chances if we’re seeking a specific outcome, like getting an artist cut. Comparing ourselves and our work to others in a “better than/worse than” way is always a recipe for disaster; rather, we can identify strengths and desirable elements and learn from others and incorporate those features into our own work.
    For me, the sweetest thought a songwriter can have and hold onto is to remember that songwriting is a journey and a gift and it never has to end…and that one truth is plenty strong to wipe away any stinking thoughts that might creep up every now and then.

  6. Despite what some have said, don’t forget the power of pro networking through venues like linkedin. Word to the wise. I have hundreds of contacts now – some are very high level in both the .music and entertainment/”broadcasting businesses

  7. Haha! I can’t help thinking of “Uncle Rico” in “Napoleon Dynamite.”
    “Stinkin’ thinkin” right out of his mouth!
    Blessings to you all during these holidays.

  8. Back in August a woman posted what I would call a prompt, for ease of explanation. She simply asked people to post things that they loved that can not be bought. I took this and rand with it and wrote a song called things that you love. It was written from the POV of a loved one watching an elder pass away and the eleder’s last act of leaving his legacy of all the wonderful things in his life that money can not buy, “The things I love most didn’t cost me a dime”. Lot’s of nice feed back from folks including the woman who started the process with the original posted request.

    On December 2 her husband passed away and she reached out to me to let me know that my song was now so important to her and would I care to write some more based on her notes and experiences. We’ll be moving forward on a project after the start of the year which will be a writing experience for me but more importantly a writing and healing experience for her. As a song writer and human being I am aware of the awesome responsibility I am taking on here but I am also humbled that my abilities and skills have touched another in such a deeply personal way. Song writing can be such a powerful force and that is why I write songs.

  9. After reading what Ernest wrote here it kind of solidifies why I write songs. You can say what you feel through songs, we are lucky that way. Even if only a few people hear what you say, a least someone is listening. I guess I would say songwriting is a gift to us that need to express ourselves. If I make a buck doing it, great, if not, I’ll still do it. We all have other talents also that allow us to do the things we love. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to have regular jobs, so I can always be able to play music on the side. I even wrote a song about it, “Do What You Can” with what you got, you might not think you’ve got a lot… Enjoy this life, and keep writing. Ernest’s song makes me think of an old Lynyrd Skynyrd hit, “Workin’ fo MCA”. It shows that writing what you feel can pay off. Cheers!

  10. Wow. Simply. wow. Good therapy I sincerely hope. Your lyrics reveal a lot of industry knowledge! Imagine if that song was about love instead, and how much it would connect with people. Take care D.

  11. What about going door to door on music row , trying to make as many contacts as you can on Broadway , back again to music row and into BMI to see if there’s anyone that can help you find a publisher that will take time to review your work. Because I get no can’t work with you on music unless you are paying for my time. And no unsolicited materials excepted . Its not about if I think I’m good , its not if I’m not pushing to meet and talk to others , It has nothing to do with anything you have listed in Stinking Thinking . I have not ever presented my work collection to a music publishing company. So I don’t know if I suck or if my songs are to strange not to connect with listeners. All I know is no chance, rejected , dismissed. 5 years in Nashville I have a stack of songs and still writing. I wish I could meet with a publisher and have the time to review my catalog. That way I would know if I Suck at what I do. Yes to me everyday I’m improving but what good is a pile of songs sitting around to collect dust . I often tell myself go outside and burn them ,get rid of all files and forget about writing songs . Then theirs the thought oh maybe someday you will meet a publisher and the worst part when another lyric starts and you think oh I have to write this down its just to good and you start another song that sits around . Its a sick cycle I need to quit writing because without a proper way to become a published work its just a waste of time . Broken heart and Shatters dreams is the song this songbird sings.

    1. Ernest, we did a webinar with producer/songwriter Forrest Whitehead not long ago. We do pro webinars monthly.. He was in your position. Didn’t know anyone in Nashville in the business. He started going to writers nights every time Black River publishing did a writers night. He started meeting the song pluggers and writers at these writers nights. That’s how he opened doors. Now he’s writing and producing hits. That’s just one story of success. But there are thousands. My own doors to success were opened by my co-writing. Getting my name around town as a great writer through co-writing. This is how a community like song town can start helping you. Help you get the roadblocks and start getting doors to open for you.

      Cheers, Clay

      1. Don’t Write Don’t Sing
        Written By Ernest J Roybal
        Aka Elroy Ball

        Your a fool to chase your dreams
        No one should write or sing .
        Broke and unhappy with a song in your head .
        And that’s where it’s going to stay until the day that your dead!
        So your going to be a big ole star and now your playing a guitar.
        Singing karaoke in the local bar
        Every day getting better than you where before
        Loved Music as long as you’ve been alive.
        there’s a group of elite in music
        And all together make 2 NFL Teams .
        So you better keep your 9 to 5 if you know what I mean.

        No One should write , No one should sing , The Music Society’s Make Billions And don’t pay enough to buy beans !
        No one should write and no one should sing .
        The Industry makes money, but you don’t get a thing!

        Recording studio charges , Musicians have there fee ,
        The engineer by the hour ain’t nothing gonna be free.
        Pay for the Demo and for the pitch pay off the managers .
        Dreams to be rich .
        No one should write and No one should sing .
        Awaken from the fairy tail , Awaken from the dream .
        Buying books , buying classes , buying retreats.
        Soon you’ll and your guitar, are sleeping hungry on the Streets.

        No One should write , No one should sing , The Music Society’s Make Billions And don’t pay enough to buy beans !
        No one should write and no one should sing .
        The Industry makes money, but you don’t get a thing!

        I won an award today what is it worth?
        Won’t pay for a Casket won’t pay for a hurst.
        The only thing you have for You effort and time
        The insanity that’s behind each song in your mind .
        Working for money that you give away,
        Working on you craft as the years pass away
        No one should write and no one should sing
        Tell your children it’s a foolish Thing.
        Never going to chart or have a hit .
        Works of your life doesn’t amount to Shit !

        No One should write , No one should sing , The Music Society’s Make Billions And don’t pay enough to buy beans !
        No one should write and no one should sing .
        The Industry makes money, but you don’t get a thing!
        (End) EJR

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