A Lifetime of Learning For Songwriters

One of the things I love most about being a songwriter is that it is one of the few things in life that you can never totally “figure out”.  You can always write a better song than you wrote today.  There’s always some new melodic trick or turn of a phrase that you have never encountered before just waiting around the bend.  I love that!

I guess I get bored with things you can master.  I have been a pro songwriter for nearly 25 years now and I’m still learning weekly if not daily.  That keeps me going when I’m frustrated or not seeing the results I want at the moment.

Whenever I have a songwriter come to me and say “I finally got this songwriting thing figured out!”, I always smile and wish them well.  It reminds me of a singer I heard being interviewed one time.  He was becoming known for his romantic songs and the interviewer asked him how he seemed to connect so well with the ladies.  He responded “I think I’ve got them figured out.”  I wanted to call him and say “Dude you have NO idea how wrong you are!”  Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.

Anytime I start to think I have songwriting or women figured out, someone or something comes along to teach me that I still have a long way to go.

I encourage every songwriter to just own it.  You’re never going to completely figure songwriting out.  So, the big questions are  “How much do you want to learn?”  and “Are you willing to spend a lifetime growing and getting better?”  Or, are you happy on the plateau you are on?

There’s no harm in either approach, but don’t let yourself believe for a minute that you have mastered songwriting.  I haven’t.  My mentors haven’t.  If you do want to keep getting better as a songwriter, take the “lifetime of learning” approach and consciously look for ways to improve all the time.

Make it a daily discipline to do something that helps you grow as a writer.

For me, I’m always digging for better ideas.  I read great authors to learn how they use language.  I listen to music that inspires me.  I dissect great songs.  I watch videos on songwriting.  I want to learn everything I can so that my lifetime of learning leads me to songs I never imagined I could write in my 20s.

So, what about you?  Are you ready for a lifetime of learning?

Write on,

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

SongTown Co-Founder

Hit Songwriter/Author/Encourager

11 thoughts on “A Lifetime of Learning For Songwriters

  1. I thank you for this post Marty and it is so very very true. I believe that everything in life that is worth learning is totally and constantly an “act of making something better” (quotes from a definition of amelioration).and songwriting is a prime example of that..

  2. So true! If you listen to the great song writers, their sound changes over time as they continue to learn. And that also means failing sometimes in an effort to experiment – and then learning from that failure. Just saw Bob Dylan in concert recently and he’s a perfect example of this.

  3. Iv been writing songs since about age 8, and I’m still mystified by how the process works. Sometimes a song almost writes itself, and other times it is like a puzzle I need to figure out. Either way, I find the process thrilling. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about songwriting!

  4. It’s overwhelming how much I feel I need to learn. Which can stop me from actually writing…thinking about how little I know and I’ll never catch up. But then, I write anyway, because I can’t not write.
    BTW-Kevin Rowe and I wrote a song called “Sometimes You win…Sometimes you Learn” based off the title of my friend John Maxwell’s book by the same title. 🤗

  5. I once had a singing teacher who said, “To learn to sing takes ten years plus the rest of your life.” I figure it’s like that with anything.

  6. What a beautiful thought; it’s the journey that fulfills me for sure. When I get honest about it, there is no other place I’d rather be than writing another song today. There are earmarks and peak moments ( and, sigh, plateaus) but every day is a new adventure that never has to end. I am grateful every day that I’ve been stricken with this wonderful passion and obsession…how many people can wake up and look forward to doing it again day after day. It’s a gift for sure.
    Thanks for the reminder Marty.

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