There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be Creative

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be Creative

Sometimes it feels like the world is going crazy. The Nazis are back! A third of millennials will never own a home! Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water! And don’t even get me started on politics. But that’s only half the story. In fact and in facts, we live in the safest, most peaceful, most technologically advanced era in human history. We also live in the best period of human history – by far – to do something creative. Let’s talk about five reasons why.   It’s Never Been Easier to Make New Things In Mozart’s time, making music was just for rich people who either were the aristocracy or who were lucky enough to work for them. Well, sucks to be you Mozart, because these days you can get started entirely on your own and without spending a fortune. Seriously. You can pick up a decent instrument for less than $100. You can create an entry-level recording studio by plugging a decent mic into your laptop. You can make professional-sounding music in your bedroom, on the subway, on a plane, in the middle of nowhere. You have access to a huge library of sounds, beats and synths online, sometimes for free. You can shoot a great-looking music video on your phone. You can make all kinds of amazing things with the tools you probably already have and not much else. And that’s not even to mention the incredible and unprecedented freedom people alive today have. OK. I know it doesn’t feel like that when your alarm goes off at 7am Friday and you have to lug your sorry...
Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks (And Five Why It’s Awesome)

Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks (And Five Why It’s Awesome)

Sometimes being a songwriter sucks. Sometimes it’s awesome. Let me try to explain why.   — Five Reasons Why Being a Songwriter Sucks —   1. You never feel good enough You’re too close to the thing you’re working on. You’re the last person on earth who can judge it objectively. And because you made it, you know all the bits that weren’t as good as you hoped. And because you have high standards, there are plenty of them. Worst of all, you can’t just try ‘positive thinking’ your way out of this. Because you’re a great writer, you know the thing you make can always be better. There’s always one more rewrite you can do. There’s always one extra tweak you can make. Ad infinitum. That means at some point you have to call it a day and call the thing done, even if you’re not completely satisfied. That’s all you can do. That, and hope you do a bit better next time.   2. You spend way too much time on your own Most people spend most of their working day surrounded by co-workers (e.g. cubicle dweller), maybe even customers (e.g. ice cream man), maybe even masses of the general public (e.g. town crier). Most writers, on the other hand, don’t. Sure, there are co-writing sessions and meetings and rehearsals and days in the recording studio. But some days it’s just you. Just you and the blank page or screen. Just you and your lingering feeling that you don’t really know what you’re doing. Just you and your thoughts and your optimism that those thoughts might help...
How to Finish a Song

How to Finish a Song

The trouble with finishing a song is that songwriting is hard. Possible, manageable, achievable. But hard. It’s hard because songwriting, like any kind of creativity, means making something that doesn’t exist yet. And the trouble with making something that doesn’t exist yet is that – because it doesn’t exist – you don’t know how to make it. In a nutshell, that’s how creativity works. And that’s why creativity is hard. There’s no formula. There’s no rulebook. There’s no IKEA-style instructions. You just have to figure it out. One of the most common questions I get asked both through the site and as a songwriting coach is ‘How do I finish a song?’ And the honest answer is, you keep going. You finish a song by coming up with ideas until the song’s finished. I know that’s not a sexy answer. I know that’s not an exciting answer. I know that’s not an answer I can explain in a three-step WikiHow article with nice pictures.     If you’re confused about your song’s structure, I suggest you stick to a simple Verse-Chorus structure – like Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus or Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus. If you’re not sure what to put into your song’s verses, have a think about your song’s story and try brainstorming details about that story – no lyrics yet, just words and phrases! – that might inspire a full lyric. If you’ve written your first verse but are stuck on your second, think about a shift in time or place or topic you could use to frame your second verse. What other focus could help inspire you to write something new? If you’re struggling to...
Be Restless

Be Restless

Be restless. Dream big. Want more. Go new places. Meet new people. Try new things. Never settle. Life is too short not to. Now don’t get me wrong. Dreams are earned. Dreams are fought for. They’re not wishes granted by some motherfucking genie in a bottle. The bigger your dreams, the harder you have to graft to make them come true. The more you have to struggle. The more you have to sacrifice. But will it be worth it? You betcha. At eighty, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do way more than the things you did. So be stupid. Be unthinking. Be fearless. And be ready to fuck up. Because you will. Nobody ever did anything worthwhile without making mistakes, or burning a few bridges, or looking like a completely crazy person once in a while. Which would you rather: Fuck up a hundred times, learn a hundred new lessons then use those lessons to create something amazing? Or fuck up never and create nothing? Because you have to choose. It’s one or the other. You can’t make zero mistakes and something amazing. So embrace it: in a life well spent, things are going to go wrong. You’ll be told ‘no’. You’ll be told ‘fuck no’. You’ll be told ‘fuck you’. None of these are reasons to settle. None of these are reasons to stop exploring. None of these are reasons to stop trying new things. Life only stops if you decide to stop living it. Be restless. Never settle.   Photo by Bryan Minear on...
To Begin, Begin

To Begin, Begin

William Wordsworth said it best: “To begin, begin.” And, if I may, I’d like to expand on his pithy philosophy. To begin, begin. To continue, continue. To finish a song, finish a song. To write something new, write something new. To write in a different genre, write in a different genre. To learn something new about songwriting, learn something new about songwriting. To keep going even though it’s hard, keep going even though it’s hard. To keep going even though you worry you’ll never be good enough, keep going even though you worry you’ll never be good enough. To turn off your brain long enough to let go and create a first draft full of imperfections, turn off your brain long enough to let go and create a first draft full of imperfections. To improve your first draft even though rewriting is even more painful than writing in the first place, improve your first draft even though rewriting is even more painful than writing in the first place. To rewrite that bridge for the seventh time on the off-chance this rewrite will be the one that cracks it, rewrite that bridge for the seventh time on the off-chance this rewrite will be the one that cracks it. To write ten songs so you have enough material to choose the four best for your first EP, write ten songs so you have enough material to choose the four best for your first EP. To reach out to that potential co-writer or venue or manager even though they might say no, reach out to that potential co-writer or venue or manager even...
Five Books That Are Nothing and Everything to Do with Songwriting

Five Books That Are Nothing and Everything to Do with Songwriting

One of the big ideas I write about a lot is that songwriting isn’t just about songwriting. Songwriting is about life, because art is about life. You have to be good at being a person before you can be good at being a songwriter. It’s an idea I come back to time and time again in my own book, but here are five of the most important places I picked these ideas up in the first place.   Stephen R. Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Some days it feels like the Internet is 98% self-help advice and 98% of that isn’t great advice. But Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits is absolutely the real deal. Whatever you’re trying to do with your life. The seven habits cover private victory – mastering yourself – as well as public victory – mastering interpersonal relationships. It’s hard to do justice to how powerful and life-changing the ideas in this book are. It’s for good reason The Seven Habits has sold over fifteen million copies around the world, and you’re at a serious disadvantage if you don’t own one too.   Brené Brown: Daring Greatly As one of the terrorists in Team America: World Police famously said, “I like balls”. And if you’re a songwriter, you should like balls too. Because nothing worthwhile happens without a healthy dose of chutzpah. In fact, creativity can’t happen without courage. Creativity means uncertainty, and mustering the courage to face that uncertainty is 90% of creative success. But don’t just take my word for it – let Brené Brown explain it much better than I can. If you’re interested in bringing more creativity, vulnerability...