Songwriters: You Fail Only If You Stop Writing Songs

fail as a songwriter

Hi, are you a songwriter?

I’ve had people come up to me and introduce themselves in a setting where I suspected that they were also songwriters. When I ask if they are songwriters they say, “Not a real songwriter – I’ve never had anything recorded”.

That always breaks my heart. I believe that commercial success does not make one a writer any more than donating to a charity makes one a good person.

Those things are outward measures that people can see and make conclusions based on. But even those conclusions aren’t always accurate. I have known people that donated tons of money to charity to make themselves feel better for the crappy way they live. And, I’ve known people who were admittedly NOT writers that happened to be in the room when a hit was written and they got their name on the song as a writer. Those outward signs can be deceiving.

If you are a writer, you are a writer because you have a writer’s heart.

You see the world through different lenses. You feel and experience the world with a passion that others don’t have. You are able to put the world into words. If you are a songwriter, you put it into words and music.

That is a rare gift. And the gift is not measured by dollars and cents. The gift is measured by the continual outpouring of your soul onto paper so that others might be able to hear your work and say “That’s exactly what I was feeling, but I couldn’t find the words to say it.” It’s giving of yourself so that others might dance, laugh or sing.

You fail only if you stop writing songs …

If you judge your writing in those ways, you will agree that you only fail if you stop writing. The amount of commercial success you achieve doesn’t need to define you. I’m not a better writer because I’ve had several #1 songs. I’m a better writer because I keep writing.

So, my message today is – Don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged.

Just keep writing. Keep doing everything you can do to improve your skills and keep pouring your heart out.

Whatever you achieve with that strategy, you will be a winner AND you will be a writer. Own it.

Write on! MD

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

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

25 thoughts on “Songwriters: You Fail Only If You Stop Writing Songs

  1. If you are not a good singer but a good songwriter, how do you create a demo? And how do you market your songs and get them published?

  2. Marty, (although, looks as though a couple people thought Clay wrote this particular blog;),
    Thanks for the motivational reminder to not feel discouraged and not give up on one of our passions!

  3. Great stuff Marty…Thanks for a’ll the wonderful advise for non-profit songwriters….If financial gain was my principal reason for writing songs…I would have stopped writing them when I was thrirteen years old. Writing closer to the bank is not as easy as many may think…if it was, we would have more than 2000 number one songwroters in the world. That being said…simple praise of my work is satisfying and proof enough that my songwriting journey has intangible value.

  4. Thank you Marty,
    You’ve blessed my day again with your words of wisdom… I wholeheartedly agree!!! God Bless the Songwriters!!!😊🙏🎶

  5. I needed this today. I thought I wrote a really great song yesterday, only to realize it was just a song I remembered. I was pretty disappointed, but I can always try again.

  6. Thank you Marty! I’ve considered myself a writer for a number of years, even though I’ve never had a cut. But I am hopeful and will continue to write for the love of it.

  7. This was so good. I have written some songs Don’t know how to write the music for it. I don’t play an instrument I just get the words and the tune.

  8. Timing is perfect, Clay. My brother passed recently. I had written a song about him and other soldiers we were missing physically and or emotionally. I was watching the news about current wars, and wondered about my Viet Nam Vet brother. So, the song emerged. I never went beyonf work tape, but as we deal with this loss after years of missing the 18 year old who was drafted and never really came back, I wish I had invested in a demo and could post the song to express what I felt, still feel, but cannot express at this tearful time. I am one who has written many songs, but despite co-writing 9 of 11 seconds bgs on an EP, I don’t think of myself as a writer because I never get played or paid despite several sobgs on hold.

    I wrote before and since my association with Songtown.

    Maybe your article and my loss will be a turning point.

    Life is short…

  9. I am a writer for the simple reason that I have no choice – I simply can’t NOT be a writer.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a healthy, stable person, but one time, decades ago, I gave up writing because I started teaching high school, and I felt that, at least for that first year, I had to devote myself to it 100%. That might have been true, but in six months, I was in a therapist’s office. He was a smart guy, so he said, “I want you to go out and do something you enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy antything, do something that you USED to enjoy.” So I did. Music. Boom! I was fine.

    It can be songwriting or poetry or prose, but I NEED a creative outlet to be happy.

    Kurt Vonnegut said something about writers who do not enjoy commercial success, and it stuck with me, partly because I thought it was extraordinarily generous and partly because it rang so true. I won’t get it exactly right, I don’t imagine, but I couldn’t Google it:

    “Anyone who writes a book, even if it’s a bad book, is a colleague of mine.”

    Somehow, that’s always given me hope.

    Whether I’m good or bad at what I do, I can always improve, and if I keep doing that . . .

    Plus, like I said, I really don’t have a choice.

    1. Thank you so much for writing this, Lon. It actually made me cry with laughter at the part where you said you ended up in a therapist’s office. Please don’t misunderstand me – I don’t take your being there lightly at all, in fact it’s because I understand your story so completely that your words had such a profound effect on me.
      We really don’t have a choice, as you say, but not one day goes by when I don’t think maybe I should quit music to focus more on what’s supposedly really important in life. You know, the really serious stuff that we’re led to believe we should value above all else?
      I feel honoured to be a colleague of Kurt Vonnegut’s… and yours…

  10. Beautiful words Clay. I know for myself and I suspect for many others that another sign that you are a songwriter is that you cannot stop writing songs. It’s something we just do continuously, like eating and sleeping, and never stop.

  11. It’s easy to get discouraged, but advise like this makes it a little easier to pull up the boot straps and kept kickin’ Ass!
    Thank you
    You’re a breathe of fresh air!

  12. Van Gogh never sold a thing in his lifetime, but he never gave up pouring his soul onto canvas. Now millions appreciate that effort.

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