The Scariest Moment In Songwriting

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I believe that the scariest moment in songwriting is the moment before you start.

Most of us have voices that play in our heads. Those voices often tell us that the task at hand “can’t be done”. “You aren’t good enough”. “You can’t handle this”…. you know the drill.   It is the rare person who has never heard those voices. The negative self talk keeps us from starting. If you don’t start, or don’t try, then you can’t fail. Or so “they” tell us.

So, we drift through life taking the easy road because these nameless voices don’t believe in us. When you think about it, it seems silly, doesn’t it? Letting nameless, internal voices change the course of our lives? And giving up on something we are DYING to do because we can’t summon the courage to just give it a try.

I’ve discovered that the best way to defeat the voices is to start.

If you overcome the “scary” moment, you are halfway to victory. The only group that succeeds in anything is the group that starts. The only writers who ever get cuts are the ones who step out on the limb and play their songs for people. There’s no way around it. If you have some dream you would love to chase, but you haven’t because the voices keep telling you that you will fail, I beg you to start. Try. Give it a shot.

Trying and failing is easier to live with than never trying at all.

I’ve done it both ways. I have lots of failures. LOTS of failures. Lots of rejection. But the rejection doesn’t sting like the pain of knowing that I never got up the courage to try. My biggest regrets in life are not things that I tried and failed. They are things I never tried at all. If you want to do something. If you have a dream tugging on your heart. Start. Just start. Don’t wait until the time is right.

The voices will convince you that the time is NEVER right. But you can overcome.

You can take one baby step in the direction of your dream. And, by starting, you have won. You have entered the group from which all the winners are chosen. And you have kicked regret to the curb. None of us will succeed at everything we try. But trying is the key to living abundantly and to being at peace with why you are here and who you are. I believe that with all of my heart.

Start. Then write on. ~Marty

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Marty Dodson
SongTown Co-Founder
Songwriter/Producer/Lipscomb Graduate

42 thoughts on “The Scariest Moment In Songwriting

  1. Wow, I love this! We can’t listen to the negative voices in our heads or we would never do anything. I always challenge myself to do more, try new things, even if I am afraid. Rejection no longer bothers me too much but it’s taken years of being rejected to get to a new understanding. If you are talking to someone who says no, you are talking to the wrong person. We have to keep trying and never give up, someone will eventually say yes.
    Thanks Marty, great article.
    Jude

  2. Thank you, Marty!

    My mantra “I win, ’cause I don’t quit!” only works if you START!

    I started recording covers ten years ago, just to get a start, and to “maybe” become the “Most Covering Artist” on SecondHandSongs. Now I have recorded covers of over 2100 songs, but I had to START.

    I have two original songs in all that time, although I have written many that folks have never or may never hear if they stay in the folder.

    For me that hard part is that my mind keeps telling me “I don’t hear melodies” when I can rip through creating lines like they are nothing.

  3. I really thank you for this one Marty! I got a real “belly chuckle” out of the comparison of this kind of “scary” to the Halloween “mask” thing.

    I believe that I am going to find this more and more helpful as I continue to learn how to become a professional songwriter. Duncan..

  4. Great blog, Marty! I needed to hear this today. I’m just going to repost my reply to this from last March (as it’s still applicable):

    Thanks for the encouragement, Marty! It’s not just the voices in the head some of us have to deal with. It’s real people telling us over and over not to do certain things, we’ll never make it, etc. It’s great to have SongTown for encouragement and training.

    Thanks!

    1. Very good point, Steve.

      My best friend growing up told me when I was in Portland back in 2006 that we were too old to do something new, when I told him I was going to start singing in public again and recording.

      “Too old”, “too this”, “too that”…

      Too bad, you never gave it a good “try”… you might have been able to fly.

      Some good soul in this bunch should WRITE the SONG… lol… there’s a line to prime the pump.

  5. My scariest thought is applying for your Edge Group and not getting in. That’s the kind of thing that wakes me up in the middle of the night with cold sweats!

  6. I don’t think I ever get “scared” (not sure that’s the right word) before I start a song; that comes a bit later. I’ve been working pretty hard at improving my songwriting over the past couple of years, and I feel like it’s been paying off. Improvement in anything never comes smoothly; it comes by fits and starts and occasional breakthroughs. And that “scared” comes in the song after one of those breakthroughs when I wrote a song that I feel is above my usual standard. The last one of those I wrote, I thought, “I’ll never write a song that good again – ever.” So the next song is, predictably tough. I find myself writing a line and thinking that it’s not good enough, and especially not up to the standard of the last song. But then I remember that it’s just a rough draft: I’m ALLOWED to write crap. Hemingway said, “All first drafts are shit.” (Maybe I should frame that and hang it up where I can see it while I’m writing.) Then I relax and it goes okay..

  7. Well said Marty, I have another scary time in the process, for me it’s the reveal of a new song. Those voices are there…and I’m afraid folks will think my new song sucks…but I always work through it…and sometimes those voices are wrong. That experience for me… is the greatest feeling in the world…!
    Cheers…

  8. Am Wesley from Nigeria, I believe am a very talented and creative song writer,even due it seems local doesn’t me in me or not that interested in my flow, probably because if my voice or lack of courage, I still believe am the best, a one of a kind,am good at what I do, my composition has a lot of western infusion,I can say I sound more America than Africa, I have written a lot of beautiful songs that can compete with that of Christ brow and Drake,I pray I can meet an America producer or promoter that will exploit this hidden skill.

  9. A writer will hear 9,999 “NO’s” before he or she ever hears a “Maybe”. Perhaps a little pre-conditioning sets in somewhere along the way. Eventually if we are studious, we get that all important first validation. We can’t allow the NO’s to prevent or slow down our writing process, each one must play out in it’s own space & time. Everytime I hear a NO, I treat it like a challenge, and like water off a duck’s back, I press on.
    Write on my friends, do it often and enjoy your journey.
    Cheers

  10. Hey Marty
    Great input. What you say is so true not just in Songwriting but also in all of our “Day Jobs”. I started my own biz after everybody I knew and all of my family told me I was crazy. Here it is 6 years later and the biz is more successful than anything I could have ever imagined. Likewise, my wife was told by her parents never to run a 5k because she would hurt herself. She did not listen. 15 years later she has run 3 Marathons- 35 Half-Marathons and countless 10k & 5k’s all after her parents told her she could never do what she just did! Lesson Learned. Listen to your internal Dreams and not the soggy expectations of ambitions of losers! In other words…keep reaching for the stars till your arms fall off! Don’t ever stop believing! Great Blog. Thank you!

    Jason Moshier
    Moshier1@yahoo.com

  11. The scariest to me is finishing, because then I might have to let someone listen… Sometimes I think (I know) I sabotage myself and get brain freeze, because if I never finish then no one can ever listen and criticize (aka critique). I’ve done it and I’ve learned from it, but it hasn’t gotten any easier. Each time, it’s like I’ve never been critiqued before. It’s like this is the time that they’re going to say “Just stop. Give up. You’re never going to be a REAL songwriter.” I appreciate all the encouragement from Songtown. I haven’t given up yet.

  12. Thanks for the encouragement, Marty! It’s not just the voices in the head some of us have to deal with. It’s real people telling us over and over not to do certain things, we’ll never make it, etc. It’s great to have SongTown for encouragement and training.

    Thanks!

  13. Great stuff. I imagine that the second most scary moment in songwriting is when we declare a song “finished “

  14. That voice is you, doing ‘self-talk’. Instead of telling yourself negative things try telling yourself positive things. Be realistic, but be positive. Since it’s you, you’re going to believe whatever you tell yourself, so why not go positive? You have that option. Try it and see.

    I think it was attributed to Voltaire when I read:

    Whatever it is, begin it. Action has magic in it!

  15. I was going to write a comment, but was afraid to start! Sorry, bad joke. Point, you are VERY correct on this one. Carries over into our lives in every way. Well written, and needed in the world today.

  16. Thanks, Marty!

    You obviously know how it feels to have songs rejected over and over. How it sucks the wind out of your sails, and feeds your self-doubt. That’s why you keep breathing life into our dreams! I constantly struggle with the thought that I am wasting time and money that could be better used on something else. For now, I’m going to believe that my dream of writing songs that can touch people, and have a positive impact, will be realized.

    God bless, man!

  17. Thanks Marty..I hear you..I dabbled for a while and then finally owned it and told myself I was a writer a few years ago..I now have a song on a top 14 Blues Rock record which has charted all over the globe and will have likely 4 more on the same artist’s next record..I heard that little voice a few times but worked past it and now the new found success has quietened him for good I believe..

  18. Hi Marty,

    Your site is a very special one for many budding artists. I love to read every article you publish. Somehow it’s always at the right time when I am thinking on something similar. Thanks for this and trust me a lot of us don’t comment on every article but we do take inspiration from here.

  19. Well ole Merle said i was in the depths of disparity all the stupid crap he done , I can relate
    Music took over found the light , Kicked out the darkness , pretty much sums it up . I wonder if Merle could spell shrug

  20. Marty these thoughts are something we all need to remind ourselves. I put songwriting aside for many years because I didn’t think I was very good at it. Recently I started writing again and the really working on them to find the best I can give them and I have surprised myself. I had been feeling that tug in my subconcious that if I didn’t try I would never know. Even if none of my songs go anywhere and I am the only one to ever sing them I will have done it and tried. I am so thankful I did and the songs I am writing are getting better. Another good reason to write. If you think your songs aren’t all they can be keep writing. I saw a quote that said “EFFORT work hard to get good then work hard to get better” First you have to start! Thanks Marty for your words and encouragement.

  21. When Tom Douglas spoke at the 2015 NSAI Spring Training event, he shared similar sentiments. Reassuring to know that this feeling exists at all levels of ability. I think the being scared part motivates me to push through and achieve what I know I’m capable of.

  22. Hey Marty, I’ve watched a lot of song town videos and I’ve read some of these letters that you send out. This one, today, came at the perfect time for me. I’m in a really rough season of life at the moment and doubting myself has been a main struggle for me. As soon as these thoughts came to me this morning I got your email. I am very thankful for you, your words, & your wisdom. Thank you for being such an inspiration to many. ❤️

  23. we never have “Tears of Regret ” hence our song..we continue to write songs we get them pitched we play them for anyone whom will listen.we’ve bee rejected we keep on keeping on.We won’t quit writing everyday as we are constantly putting our minds and thoughts together and on paper..we “keep on keeping on” another one of our songs..thanks Marty for always the support in your words of wisdom..we are thankful for you for always helping us to keep writing and listening to our inner self always. we always keep trying even when we fail as you say..better to fail then to have never tried so we keep on trying and will continue. As being affraid is not in our vocabulary. ..love and hugs from Lisa and Pete Chattanooga Tn

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