Songwriting

The Songwriter’s Achilles Heel

by Marty Dodson
Apr 15, 2017

When I first started trying to write as a profession, I talked to my wife (now my ex-wife) and asked for 2 years to chase my dream of becoming a songwriter. She agreed to work part time and I would work part time writing and we would tag-team with the kids. When she worked, I was home with the kids. When I worked, she was home.

The one year mark came and went quickly. I had made a tiny bit of progress, but not much. The thought crossed my mind that I was halfway through with our “deal” but I told myself that I still had another year to get things going. When we got to the 18 month mark, I began to freak out a little. I REALLY wanted it to work. I had bet everything on this career change. And I had 6 months to do what I had not been able to do in 18 months.

The pressure was on. The pressure was not only on. It was debilitating. Smothering. I froze up. I could hardly write at all. And I didn’t succeed by my deadline. I did have one glimmer of hope on the horizon that convinced my wife to give me more time. This time, I went in with a more realistic approach. I said “I know that I can do this, but I think setting a time limit on it stifles my creativity and kills my chances. Can we just go into this knowing I will make it work somehow, sometime?”

I was fortunate enough that she believed I could do it. This time, I felt more free and more creative. I wrote better. I had things start to happen. And I did make it work, in case you were wondering.

So, what is the songwriter’s achilles heel?

PATIENCE. I had none. I wanted things to happen NOW and when they didn’t, I freaked out. As time went by, I realized how foolish and unrealistic my original plan had been. IF I had written a hit song the first day of that plan, demoed it several weeks later and had it cut immediately. IF that demo had gotten into the right hands and been cut the following month. IF the record label had released it three months later as a single. IF it flew up the charts to #1. THEN – I MIGHT have gotten a big check before the 2 years was over. Maybe.

If every one of those things had happened as fast as possible, then I MIGHT have succeeded in 2 years. But, all of those things never happen that way. So, I had to learn patience. I had to set realistic expectations. I had to stop, breathe and trust that I could do this but I couldn’t do it on my own time schedule. Too many variables are out of my control.

A lack of patience can KILL your chances. It can leave you angry and bitter. It can destroy your creativity. Don’t let that happen to you. Here are some things I have learned about developing patience:

1) Don’t set unrealistic time limits on success. You can’t control all of that.

2) Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. One cut gained or lost won’t make or break you.

3) Celebrate and enjoy every small success, even if it doesn’t make you money.

4) Settle in for the long haul. If you want it and you are willing to work hard enough to make it happen, then you can do this. It may take a LONG time, but you can do it.

5) Write better songs. Let your focus be on writing better songs every time out. That’s plenty to keep you busy and to keep your mind off of how long it’s taking. Just keep writing better songs and you’ll be farther down the road faster than any other way you could travel.

Be patient. And write on. ~Marty

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

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