Fake It Til You Make It: A Pro Songwriter Shares Why It Isn’t A Smart Strategy


How many times have you heard it said that one must “Fake it to make it” or “Act as if you’ve already achieved your goal.”

Nice comforting quotes but not a smart strategy for chasing your songwriting goals. I remember starting out years ago, landing my first publishing deal as a staff writer in Nashville, and being asked to play a writers show with some quote “hit songwriters” at the famous Bluebird Cafe.

There I was sitting on stage swapping songs with bonafide pro writers singing their latest hits, while I played my songs no one had ever heard before. I kept telling myself “Act as If”…

Well, let me tell you that crap didn’t help a bit!

I didn’t have big songs for people to sing along to. No, in reality, those songs weren’t hit material and I knew it sitting on that stage. But what I did have was a burning desire to get through that night, go home, and write better songs! I used it as motivation every day to get a little better at my craft.

This is not a fast approach to being a successful songwriter, but it’s one that will work. I kept writing better and better songs, slowly and surely the hits did start to sing forth from my little Epiphone guitar.

It took about 7 years of writing full time to reach my first #1 song!

I learned instead of acting as if, it’s better to take an honest assessment and work like hell to get better. That’s what Marty and I try to give everyone in our MasterClasses at SongTown…. An honest assessment. A no smoke blowing zone.

I was lucky enough to get this from my first publisher and now I can walk onto the stage of the Bluebird Cafe and not have to act. I can share my songs with an audience that sings along because they know my songs from the radio…thats a feeling I hope each of you can experience someday!

Write On! Clay


Clay Mills is co-founder of SongTown and a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter. He has 2 Grammy nominations and is the co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing. 

15 thoughts on “Fake It Til You Make It: A Pro Songwriter Shares Why It Isn’t A Smart Strategy

  1. After living in Nashville for 14 years and spending many nights at the feet of everyone from Don Schlitz to Jeffrey Steele, I thought I developed an unshakeable sense of “where the bar” is. But I wasn’t writing full time back then and it’s still easy today to fool myself into thinking I’ve written a “great song” when in fact i haven’t. What you and Marty are doing here is invaluable to those of us determined to write songs that are truly great ones.

    1. And that bar moves with time, up some but also sideways—phrasing, subjects, rhythms. Good to stay in touch with those shifts. Having a teen sharing what he’s listening to was a good investment LOL

  2. Years ago when I first started studying song craft I heard Jason Blume say it took him 16 years to get his first major hit, and 11 years to get his first cut. I thought “what does 11 years from now even look like?” Well, bam, it’s 11 years later and my first radio artist song debuts on radio tomorrow. Do I see a difference in my writing after doing it every day for over 10 years now? You bet I do. I’m just grateful that there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than writing every day and seeing the results. Getting radio cuts is cool, but it’s no way everything. There’s nothing like writing a great song people really enjoy.
    Peace & love.

    1. Scotty, this is why we started song town and have helped our members get going in the music business. Song town members get pro feedback on their songs monthly. We have monthly webinars and classes with industry pros. Real pros, that are successful writers, publishers, and producers.

  3. I was really scared you were going to advocate the “fake it” strategy for a minute. So glad you went the other direction! I’ve been reading the articles that you and Marty post lately and really appreciate the advice you give. Thanks!

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