5 Things I Would Tell My Younger Songwriting Self



I started writing songs when I was 11 years old.  They were predictably bad, but heartfelt.  Many were dedicated to girls in the neighborhood that I wished would notice me.  If I could go back and talk to that little 11 year old guy, here are 5 things I’d tell him about songwriting.

Being a real songwriter is hard and stressful.  It will take WAY longer than you think it will to succeed.  But it will be the best job you can ever imagine.

There are no real shortcuts.

I’d tell him that he needs to read every songwriting book, learn to play guitar better and learn everything he can about the craft of songwriting if he wants to succeed. The only way to do it will be through hard work, persistence and learning.  He probably wouldn’t have listened, but I’d tell him anyway.

Don’t be afraid.

That 11 year old dreamed of being a songwriter, but was scared to death to try it, even though he lived in Nashville.  That fear cost him dearly.  4 years of college and 10 years of working in a profession he didn’t love later, he finally found the courage to go for it.  I would tell him to chase the dream from the start and skip the 14 years of preparing for something else.

It’s not about the money.

I would tell him that the greatest joy he will find will be in going into a room with another creative person every day and ending the day with a brand new song.  I would try to help him see that the joy is in the creating, not in the responses to the creations or the money that might follow.

Don’t be in a hurry.

I’d try to help him learn how to slow down and take it all in.  From the crushing rejection in the beginning to the #1 parties, it all has value and it is all a vital part of the journey to who he would become.  I’d encourage him to celebrate ALL of it.

And, I might thrown in a sixth one.

I’d probably tell him, “Don’t let the little girl down the street get you down.  There’s a girl growing up across town that will be just perfect.”  Who knew?

Write on! Marty


Marty Dodson

Co-Founder SongTown


14 thoughts on “5 Things I Would Tell My Younger Songwriting Self

  1. Songwriter, Ditch Digger or both.
    People first, things second and money third; has served me very well…..!

  2. You guys at song town are just simply awesome! I can’t believe I waited this long to join-I get more inspired to write every day for the enjoyment of writing and what I pen seems to be getting easier and better-I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity!

  3. My only regret… not moving to Nashville at 18 years old. I would have done odd jobs to eat and just write and knock on doors. I can do without my college degree, without my business successes, and a family I could have had once I could support one. But move to Nashville at 18 years old.

    Rules of any endeavor: #1 – Show up. #2 – Be where you should be, and #3 – Be what you are, a songwriter.

  4. Marty and Clay you two are great inspiration. I had given up and put down the pen for 10+ years. After coming across Songtown I decided to give it another whirl. Maybe nothing will ever come of it, but I have come to realize that songwriting is who i am so why not Just embrace it and work at writing better songs with the guidance Song Town provides. Thank you both for that.

  5. The one thing I’d tell my younger self is to get past the fear of failure and get started. I was a musician from the time I was 13, but always out of the spotlight in the background with a band. I never had the confidence to try to write a song and certainly ever had the guts to perform solo. Insecurity and doubt caused me to wait until I was 60 to write my first real song and to begin performing my songs in public. “Everything in its own time and place …”, they say. I realize I’m way too late to make a living at it, but I’m just in time to really enjoy it without the pressure of competing with others and trying to monetize my songs. I’m doing okay, but I suppose that small part of me still has regrets.

  6. I would have told myself to “shut up and listen”. This is a skill in and of itself that has to be developed. Learn how to receive. I still haven’t come anywhere close to mastering this but have for sure realized how important it is. Knowing a few guitar chords and playing in a lot of bands doesn’t mean you know how to write a song. Listen and Learn!

  7. Rule# 7 You may want to throw in…in all Honesty…the chances of making it are not good. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, or you may end up an old person with nothing but a wasted life. You should chase the dream, but don’t put aside marriage, kids, or maybe another career also…to support them.If it’s meant to happen, it will happen, if not…you would have lived probably the most rewarding life ever. If it does…well take the cake and eat it too.(stay in reality)

    1. Absolutely, as someone who was determined to support my kid and family and succeed as a songwriter, I can say family first and career 2nd. BUT…. you can absolutely do both! I’m proof and Marty is proof.

      If I listened to the odds and naysayers, I never would have had my first #1 song at the age of 40 and follow it with 16 more AND I still support my family. Both are possible!


      1. If you are only writing for the money you may never be satisfied and your songs will most likely go nowhere. Write for the pleasure of writing and you will never be disappointed and the magic just might happen.

  8. I would like to add: Turn all the negatives in your life into positives by writing a song about the adventure/experience. There are plenty of girls who might let you down and you might let down as well. Take the lesson and write about it.

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