The Mindful Songwriter

The world we live in is full of distractions.  With an unlimited supply of entertainment and information in our phones, it is becoming more and more rare to see someone just sitting, thinking and being fully present or mindful.

We walk in restaurants and 100% of the people sitting alone are on their phones.  Many people who are with others are on their phones.  My wife and I were recently out at a nice restaurant.  The table next to us was decorated with rose petals and hearts, had a corsage in a beautiful box and had special candles burning.  When the couple arrived, the woman was so excited that her man had thought ahead and arranged this special treat.  My wife gave me that look that said “That would be nice for YOU to do sometime.”

Within 5 minutes of sitting down, the man pulled out his phone.  The woman watched quietly for about 15 minutes, then she pulled out her own phone and began texting someone else.  They were both on their phones every moment that they weren’t eating.  I gave my wife a look that said “At least I’m being present with you.”  I won in the end.  Turns out, she would rather have me be present with her than to plan a romantic surprise.  I’m sure doing BOTH would be a grand slam, so I’m working on that.

All of that to say, being MINDFUL (present in the moment) can change your life as a songwriter.

Why?  Let me make the case:

  1. Being mindful as you go through life helps you notice the little things that slip by those who are distracted.  Being able to capture all of those little moments is the essence of being a hit songwriter.  If you see things others can’t or don’t see, then you have an advantage as a writer.
  2. Being mindful is a discipline that helps you focus.  I can’t count the number of times songwriters tell me, “I’m just all over the place.”  Creative people are all over the place because ideas just explode in our heads.  Mindfulness helps give order and meaning to those ideas.   Without PRACTICING mindfulness, most creative people don’t develop it as a skill.
  3. Being mindful helps you deal with the ups and downs of songwriting.  Songwriting can be an emotional roller coaster because everyone has an opinion of your work.  Without mindfulness, that roller coaster has the potential to destroy a vulnerable songwriter.

So, how do you become a mindful songwriter?  Here are some things to try:

  1. Meditate.  Even if it’s 5 minutes per day.  Spend time just being, breathing and celebrating being alive.
  2. Go for a walk.  Put the phone away.  Get outdoors.  Even just for a few minutes.
  3. Give yourself time to think.  Instead of looking at your phone in every spare moment, just sit and think.   Think about your writing.  Where you are with it and where you hope to be in 6 months.  Think about ideas you have been wanting to write.
  4. Do something with someone special.  When I’m with my grandson, because I’m an early riser, I take the morning shift.  My daughter brings him out to me and then she and her husband go back to bed.  I get to play with him for several hours.  I have realized that there is nothing on my phone more precious than the time I spend on the floor playing with him and showing him I love him.  Similarly, when my wife and I go on date nights, we put the phones away.  Just BEING with someone helps develop a mindful attitude.

If you practice the discipline of mindfulness for 6 months, I predict noticeable changes in your writing and I’d love to hear your stories of how it works for you!


Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

SongTown Co-Founder

21 thoughts on “The Mindful Songwriter

  1. Just as the romantic gesture fell flat when the phone came out, first his, then hers, a Song can fall flat when what we think are cogent points turn out to be just window-dressing. One can immediately see the rose petals and candles and the thrill in the Love-Interest Character’s reaction, and even a hint of the Singer-Character’s smiling face as they walk into the restaurant for his surprise. In the ‘Song’ of life we also see the patience of the Love-Interest Character for fifteen minutes before she gives in, accepting that this is what it is, a gesture without the meaningful, mindful reality she thought it was.
    In a Song I might employ that ‘conflict’ as an interesting story-telling device, but I’d have to recover somehow. But how? Otherwise my Song might fall flat, with an unsatisfying ending. There’s enough of that in reality. I want the fantasy of a happy denouement’ to my story. Unfortunately, I’d have to move it from their table to yours. I like the value you place on your time with your wife and grandson.
    A man told me of playing marbles with his kids. “We get down on the ground. We’re all there around the circle, face to face, spending time together.”
    I see so much in Nature as I’m driving, or riding with another driver. The kids in the back seat have their heads down in their devices. By the time I can say, “Look! A bald eagle!” and they look it is too late. This magnificent tool can benefit or deprive us of benefits. The mind, another magnificent tool, is only as beneficial as the person ‘handling’ it makes it.
    I’m recalling now how my last visit with a special person was all one-on-one. She’s a great user of her phone, but I don’t recall waiting for her to get off of it to be with me. And I just took it for granted because I’m not a phone-junkie myself. Interesting. Explore, Songwriters. See what mindfulness of reality can bring to your Songwriting. Good stuff, Marty.

  2. Wawooo!it’s so amazing. This comes while I was writing a marriage song for a couple but words were flying. Thanks a lot. Let be serious and mindful right now.

  3. Marty,
    I really loved this. I think it’s so important to be aware of things around us. I find myself listening in to other peoples conversations and getting great ideas for songs. Not in a creeper way, of course. Lol
    This post is just a great reminder to all of us to stay focused and “mindful” thank you for sharing.
    Jude Toy

  4. It’s interesting to me that the word “mindfulness” has been showing up all around me lately. I’m taking the hint!!

    Thank you for your insight and wisdom!

  5. I write mostly while on the road . Being a truck driver affords me , peace and quiet , by myself to tune out the world , and write . Not sure I could set in a room with 3 or 4 other people and get the same quality , FROM MYSELF !!!!

  6. Loved this Marty! Read it on my phone though lol
    Ive been doing Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages from The Artists Way for 25 weeks and 3 days now and the change in my writing is apparent but the change in me was the real surprise. I see it as a cross between meditation, reflection and your very own therapist’s couch and together they give me the mindfulness and the presence you speak of.
    I don’t think I’ve been in more moments in my life than I have been in the last 25 weeks. I noticed the change about 2 weeks in, and the last 6 months have been a very positive and productive period for me.
    Here’s to mindfulness and being in the moment. 😊

    1. The exercise Morning Pages is absolutely an eye opener and obviously potentially constructive in so many ways to writing better songs. Thank you for sharing your mindfulness.

  7. Love this, Marty! Can’t say more about meditation. Both the Calm and Headspace apps have some free sessions to start before making you pay, for anyone interested.

  8. Marty, this is Emory Clark. I’m 80 this Sunday! And am working on launching a new record Label called “Emory Lane”!
    I hope you’ll hear about me through the grapevine.
    I’m certain I’ve got some hit songs ready and more in the “oven”!

  9. Terrific Marty, Spot on, I am the resident pianist at one of Europe’s leading hotels Ashford Castle Mayo
    In Ireland for a long Number of years now.(It pays the bills, still tryin to write a good hit, but hell I enjoy it) Anyway, I see exactly what you said in your article nightly, nobody goes out for a special time with their partner,wife, or husband, but they produce the mobile phone and start the finger scrolling action and cease to coverse, I have often said, both the art of good conversation, and the art of writing with a paper and pen are sadly dying.

  10. As a couple, Dawn and I practice this. Two things we do might make nice additions to your list.

    • no phones at mealtime.
    • take a moment before meals to speak our gratitudes. (Say what we’re grateful for)

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