Art Is Not a Competition

Art Is Not a Competition

If you were planning on finding out how insecure you really are any time soon, I’ve got the perfect tip for you: become a writer. With writing there’s really nowhere to hide. To some greater or lesser degree you’re going to know that’s you there on the page. And you may or may not feel comfortable about that. Building a career as a writer is also tough because it takes a long time. Once you start to build a reputation for being good at what you do so many doors start opening. But until that process begins properly, it can be a bit of a crapshoot. How can you prove what you can do without the right opportunity? But if you have to get the right opportunity before you can prove what you can do, how do you get the opportunity in the first place? It’s not all a Catch-22. Some people get a lucky break. More often, some people make their own lucky break. But this period up to and until that happens is a great time to see how uncertainty and insecurity get to you, and with a bit of luck check yourself before you wreck yourself. So to speak. One of the worst ways insecurity rears its cute little head is jealousy. Your best friend does half the work you do but has just been asked to write something for another awesome band. Someone you sort of know is breaking the Internet with posts on Facebook about their upcoming iTunes album release. Meanwhile, you thought you’d landed an awesome gig but the venue just got shut...
Get Your Story Straight

Get Your Story Straight

I work a lot in theatre, where using songs to tell a story is everything. But it’s not just on the stage where songs are about story: anything that affects us on an emotional level is about story. The Kardashian family’s latest internet coup, every Kickstarter campaign to bring us the latest life-saving gadget, and virtually every piece of advertising ever made. As a species, we’re story junkies. If you’ve read more than a couple of books on storytelling, they all tend to come back to the same issue: we love to know about other people. We love to know what they’ve been through. What they’re celebrating. What they’re struggling with. What they learned along the way. We filter other people’s experiences through our own. We see our joys and our struggles in them. It makes us feel better about our sad, pathetic lives that aren’t even as nearly as exciting as we make them out to be on Facebook. Whatever we’re going through – especially if it’s tough – we feel much better when we share it with others. We feel good when we connect with other people. We’re hard-wired that way. When a song resonates with you deeply, it’s not because you like its groove, its flashy lyrics or that sick guitar solo in the bridge. It’s because you see your own life in it. You’ve been there in your own way and the song resonates with you. You’re drawn to ‘I Will Always Love You’ because you know how shitty breakups and unrequited love can feel. You’re drawn to ‘Imagine’ because you agree that the world can be a pretty fucked up place sometimes. You’re drawn to ‘The Real Slim Shady’ because sometimes...
What I Learned about Songwriting at the Gym

What I Learned about Songwriting at the Gym

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. I think they’re a lame reason for spot self-improvement when you could be self-improving all year round. Tell me that’s beside the point. I don’t care. Anyway, 2015 was an exception. January 1st was a new start in a new neighborhood, and among my handful of resolutions I resolved to take my fitness more seriously. And I did. I’m too modest to post topless before and after photos on the Internet. Instead, here’s what it taught me about songwriting.   Body, mind and soul depend on each other I’ve never been anything you’d call unfit. I’ve had a gym membership for the past five years and I’ve been jogging two or three times a week since I was fourteen. But January 1st 2015 was a major mental shift in that I decided my body deserved a better share of the attention I’d been giving my mind and soul. And boy did I reap the benefits of that: sharper thinking, better mood, and much more creative energy. I felt far better equipped to face and solve creative challenges. I learned that body, mind and soul all depend on each other. When you write a song you depend on your rational brain (your mind) to work with with your emotional brain (your soul). But body is important too: the better your physical form is functioning, the more energized your mind and soul can be. Fine-tuning your body helps fine-tune your mind and soul. It helps build confidence and courage in every area of your life, your work included. It’s time to leave those images of slouching, pasty, beer-bellied songwriters in the past. We’re standing erect. We’re learning we can have it all. Socrates,...
Fifteen Things I’d Tell My 23-Year-Old Writer Self

Fifteen Things I’d Tell My 23-Year-Old Writer Self

Hi Ed, Don’t freak out, but I’m you from the future. 28-year-old you. Well, nearly. It’s our birthday tomorrow. I’ve been sent here as the Ghost of Christmas Future to tell you how you’re about to screw up your life and say mean things to some crippled Cratchit kid. Nah, I’m joking. You respect the disabled. You’re not about to screw up your life. But these next five years aren’t always going to be easy. In fact, at least one of them is really going to suck. So I thought I’d drop in with some information that might be useful to you one day. Actually, who am I kidding? I’m you. I know exactly what you’re going to go through. Of course it’s going to be useful. So buckle up. You’ll read things you’ll be glad to hear. There’ll be a couple of things you don’t want to hear. But since I’m a smarter, more experienced, better looking (seriously – good things are coming) version of you, you can’t really pretend I’m wrong about any of this stuff. So take a moment to get over yourself if you need to. This isn’t the Pollyanna Glad Game. We’re not holding back. 1. Congratulations on getting a place on the Masters course at the RCM. That’s a real achievement in itself. But your biggest achievement this week is committing to a path that says you’re a writer. Congratulations. You’re committing to be a person who creates things that never existed before. The best kind of person. I know you don’t feel like a creative artist right now, but you are, you always have been and you’ll...
What If Your Greatest Liability Is Actually Your Greatest Strength?

What If Your Greatest Liability Is Actually Your Greatest Strength?

More than once in my life, I’ve been told I’m a sensitive person. And I don’t disagree with that assessment. Though for a long time I did what I could to stop my sensitivity being a problem. I was conscious of it, and I downplayed it. I thought it was bad to let a negative trait like sensitivity affect other people negatively. That was a really fucked up thing to do. It was also a really disrespectful thing to do. To myself as well as everyone around me. I realized this when I realized that being sensitive wasn’t as bad a thing as lots of people would have me believe. In fact, I realized it was one of my greatest assets as a writer. And not because I’m some prissy Millennial who thinks everyone should just love me as I am. No. Because being sensitive is a great trait for a writer to have. It’s what makes me great at connecting with other people. Songs are an emotional medium. Sensitive people tend to understand emotions better. Sensitive people connect with other people, their stories, their feelings, their hopes and dreams, their fears and disappointments in a way less sensitive people just aren’t capable of doing. Sensitive people are in a better-than-average position to use all of this to affect other people for the better. That’s why you don’t read much in the papers about sensitive people repeatedly insulting ethnic groups, women and God knows who else. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Donald Trump.) I also realized that sensitive didn’t sound so bad when you expressed it using words that basically meant the same thing but had more positive connotations. Here’s a few for...