The Nail in the Wall


I’m a very goal oriented person. I need to see the end goal so that I can figure out how to get there. I like to break down my big goals into bite sized pieces and check things off my list.

There are so many elements of getting a song recorded that are out of my control. So, I have to figure out ways to do EVERYTHING I can do to make it happen and let the rest of the pieces fall where they may.

When I first started chasing writing as a full time career, I had difficulty staying motivated. There were so many times when something big ALMOST happened for me and then fell through. I would be devastated for days and it would be hard to go write again when all I was getting in return was disappointment.

I tried a number of things that didn’t work before I found the answer in a simple place. One day I sat down and made a list of my goals for my writing. I didn’t go crazy. Basically, my list was:

1) Get a song cut

2) Get a single and hear it on the radio

3) Get a gold record

Around the time that I started writing, I had toured Graceland in Memphis. When I walked into the racquetball court, my mouth dropped open. Floor to ceiling, it was covered with gold and platinum records. Not the new kind with a gold cassette or CD. Real gold RECORDS. Vinyl.

It made such an impact on me that I decided to throw that in as my big goal. I wanted a gold, vinyl record plaque on my wall. After living with my list for several days, I came up with a plan to motivate myself.

I put an empty nail in the wall at the end of my hallway, right by my bedroom door. I didn’t tell anyone what it was for. But, I knew. That was where my gold record would hang. Every day I would walk past that empty nail and remember my goals.

I believe that the leap of faith I took to hammer an empty nail into a wall was the single biggest step I took during those days. I was committed. I believed I could do it. I had a nail waiting and ready for that plaque. I looked at the nail for several years. Some days I hated it. Some days I was challenged by it. Some days it inspired me.

It helped me remember that on ONE day in the past, I believed in myself enough to get a hammer and pound that nail into the wall. It was a sweet, sweet day when I finally hung that record there. A little extra sweetness – it was a platinum record.

Whatever it takes, find something that motivates and challenges you.

On a strong day when you are believing in yourself, plant some visible reminder where you will see it often and use it to help you get through the disappointing days.

Most of us lose track of where we are going sometimes. Keeping your eyes on the end goal helps you stay on track as you make the journey. Whenever you lose your way or start to doubt, turn to your “nail in the wall” for a little “I can do this” encouragement.

Write on.

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

SongTown Co-Founder/Chief Fun Officer

21 thoughts on “The Nail in the Wall

  1. Great story.

    I wrote
    up on a big piece of paper and blue tacked it to my office wall 4 years ago.

    Every time I look up when I’m working I see that.

    I also put
    If you gotta go, go #1
    on the toilet seat so I saw it every time I lifted it up but my girlfriend made me take that off!

  2. Sometimes I think that you are a fly on the wall right next to my computer. You always hit the nail right on the head…my head lol. This was such a great follow-up blog to the Edge Meeting last night. Thank you

  3. This is great advice. I’ve created “vision boards” in the past and almost everything on those boards came true. So here’s my nail:

    In the next 18 months, one of my songs that gets cut and is played on the radio. And it will be popular enough that the country singers ion Honky Tonk Row in Nashville are playing the song. I’m searching for airlines tix right now.

  4. It appears you hit a “stud” with that nail … uh, sorry!

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING! and thank you for sharing these insights.

  5. Another great, timely post, Marty! I also have had a lot of “almosts” and have found it hard to work past them. The nail in the wall is a great idea. Can I steal your idea?

    Thanks for posting.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Marty, thanks for the inspirational message. I really need it. It’s great having encouragement, especially when you’re not getting it from other people around you. Also, it’s great to know that other people have been there and done that and can relate to what you’re going through. I’ve set goals for myself with songwriting, but it’s hard not to get depressed/unmotivated at times. I love the idea of an actual physical object (the nail in the wall) to use to remind you daily of those goals. I will definitely do this!


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