Why Did You Start Songwriting?


I believe that it is good for all songwriters to stay in touch with what made them want to write a song in the first place.

For me, here were some reasons that I put pen to paper and created melodies:

I had a crush on the girl down the street and wanted to write about her.

I believed that I had something to say.

It was therapeutic to write my feelings down in song.

I LOVED music.

I was infatuated with people who were able to write songs that people wanted to hear.

Now that I’m battling it out every day trying to get artists to record my songs and feed my family with my songs, it’s easy to lose sight of those original motivations.  But, I’m convinced that writing songs with money as the primary motivator is NOT likely to lead to success.

Years ago, a friend of mine told me he was going to write a book.  I asked him what he was going to write a book about.  He replied “I don’t care.  I just want a boat.”  Needless to say, he never wrote the book and he never got the boat.

To be successful as a writer, you have to have something to say.  You can’t just want to get rich.

The hit writers I know would be writing even if they didn’t get paid.  There is another reason they are writing.  The money is an added benefit, not the primary motivator for their writing.

Even if you are trying to write commercially, I encourage you to put that goal on the back burner and write songs that feed your soul.  Write songs that go back to your original motivations for writing – before you even knew people could get paid for writing songs.  I predict that if you continue to write from those places, you will write your best material.  Writing for money tends to make people copy, cut corners and compromise.  Those three C’s aren’t going to help you get ahead.

Just write.  Enjoy yourself.

This week, challenge yourself to let go of worries about pleasing publishers, getting songs recorded or getting your music heard.   Revel in the sheer pleasure of being able to write down your thoughts and put them to music.  That’s where the magic lies.  Never let it go.

Write On! ~Marty

Marty Dodson
Co-Founder SongTown
Pro Songwriter/Artist/Philosopher



32 thoughts on “Why Did You Start Songwriting?

  1. I am impressed with every thing that you say, it hits home. Thankyou for your honesty. I am a hairstylist, when I first started my career, I told myself $ would not be my motivator, passion for people instead. Thirty plus years later, am still doing what I love, and have owned my own business 29 of those years, I repeat those words in my head every so often when $ gets in the way.

  2. Thanks, Marty!

    I have to admit, being in one of the Edge groups, I have put a lot of pressure on myself to write commercially viable songs, and putting that pressure on myself hasn’t helped. In fact, I hit a huge block this past month. So, this reminder to write from my soul is perfectly timed.

    Thanks, again!

  3. WOOHOO MyMusicianFriend!!! Thanks for boosting my confidence and keep playing my songs from my SOUL… wherever n whenever I can. All it takes is the right person to hear it!!!

  4. When I was a kid I saw the movie “Your Cheating Heart”. It changed my life forever. I have written and recorded over 40 songs so far. Thanks Hank! Your story and music changed my life!

    1. Eli, that movie changed my life forever too. I knew when I watched it that I wanted to be a singer/songwriter like Hank. I was only 7 or so when I saw it for the first time.

    2. Wow – that was the same for me. I remember that my dad didn’t like the movie because it was historically inaccurate but they did get the message across – this guy wrote and performed songs that made people FEEL something! I was 9 when I saw it and I knew that I wanted to do what Hank did (minus the binge drinking and premature death). So I’m doing it, but I don’t think Hank done it this way 😀

  5. I have been writing songs and poetry since I was about 7 years old. To me when the inspiration to write happens I grab a pen and go with the flow. Money has never been a motivator for me. If and when I find success it will be the icing on the cake. I find the writing process very satisfying and gratifying.

    1. I’m with you Pamela, I write because I love it. I have these words and emotions swirling around inside my head and if I don’t write they will drive me crazy.

  6. Thanks Marty, Your article hit home! I enjoy the writing/creating process. “Writing from real” always feels good.

  7. Even at the age of 6, seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I could tell that this was something. All this fuss over a song played by mop topped guys, wearing the same suit, banging out music on drums and guitars. One thing I can thank my big brother for was, along with bringing home comic books that I loved to read, he’d bring home the music of the day…Beatles, Stones, Doors, Joplin…etc…I thank my mother for exposing me to the music known then as “country and western” as me and my siblings sat in a booth in the back of a bar next to a pool table and juke box, drinking root beer and eating corn chips, bouncing a cue ball around an empty table, while my Mom and stepdad drank it up with their friends at any one of a number of bars that they could not seem to pass while on the way home. I owe thanks to Mr. Sweeny who in high school taught classic poetry that engaged my imagination and ingnited a frenzy of reading for fun!? I thank my friends and aquaintences along the way who let me browse their recod collections and devoured the lyrics and liner notes trying to understand what was being communicated in the songs and who wrote them and what motivated them. I thank my past girlfriends, for inspiring long love letters that evolved into some of my first attempts at poetry and songs. I thank Jim Pratt, who taught me so much about playing and jamming on guitar and all of the other folks who’ve helped me carry the songwriters burden all of the years. I’ve written plenty just for the art of it. I think that I have some good songs to show ,after 40 years of writing, that convey ideas that are personal to me and relative to others. Yeah, I’ll keep doing it anyway…another forty years , God willing. I wouldn’t mind though, through earning the opportunity, to be in a position that might have the potential of making enough money from songwriting… to maybe put my kids through college and pay some bills. Is that an appropriate perspective for me to have?

    1. One of the biggest reasons songwriters get lost. Our culture is so profit motivated, it’s easy to get off course and misplace ones intentions. There’s a song right there. Fortunately we have folks like you Marty, to remind us and gently guide the strays back in line again by poking the grey matter just so. Thanks for your wisdom.


  8. I lost my job in 2008 and it was impossible to find a new job. I knew a guy who moved to Nashville in the early 80s for a publishing deal. He talked me into writing songs to help pass the time. So I dabbled off and on for a couple of years and then joined Songtown and here I am today!!! Writing songs and having a blast!!!!!

  9. Brother, I had no choice. A traumatic event brought me to writing back in 86′. I discovered that, like my father who was a preacher and poet, I had to write!! I started writing just to express my feelings about the situation. But then I found out I couldn’t stop. I had to write!! And after 200+ solo writes, and some co-writes (on a “on and off” basis) my catalog is a good one. And I’m writing sopmething either music wise, lyrics wise, or idea wise every day. SongTown has helped me hone my skills to be more commercially viable, but I reckon I’ve always been a story teller, and that will never change!! Thanks brother for the blog!!


  10. I was playing keyboards for a Baltimore top 40 band on the Holiday Inn circuit in the mid 70’s. We had just gotten a new female vocalist. She was beautiful and could sing like an angel. Naturally I fell in love with her in about 10 seconds flat. I wrote “Love is for Lovers” for her to sing at our gigs and it worked out really well so we played it all the time. It sure wasn’t my best song… but I still remember it and why I wrote it… I wrote it for love. What better reason could there be?

  11. My greatest goal as a songwriter is to save a life. Second to that is to improve lives by inspiring, uplifting or just plain entertaining.

  12. I was making up songs when I was old enough to talk. I got my first song published in first grade. Songwriting is something I just do. Always have and always will.

  13. This is such a worthy reminder and I love the book-to-bait example. It’s easy to forget why when we’re so focused on the how and how much. Thank you thank you!

  14. I love how you help us come back home with the simple act of sharing your truth, it’s so powerful! Thank you!

  15. When I was young, I thought songwriters were magicians. I would play songs from my pop music books and always look at names of the songwriters. I idolized them. They were my heroes. They still are. Thanks for this, Marty. I needed to hear it.

  16. I bought a used guitar probably when I was about 13 yrs old, then I tuned my guitar, then I learned four chords, then I wrote my first song. I’ve been writing ever since. I don’t need a reason short of I just love to write. I have never had writer’s block… unless I have had it all my life and just don’t know it. I also don’t believe in music critics. They have lost all credibility after listening to the radio.

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