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...
Seven Simple Steps to Songwriting Success

Seven Simple Steps to Songwriting Success

If you’re like many people today, you might like to think anything can be done in just a few, easy, Google-able steps. And you wouldn’t be totally wrong: there’s a quickest, most efficient route to accomplishing anything. But you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think you can accomplish anything worthwhile just like that. Building a songwriting career included. In our usual style of no-bullshit tough-love, here’s The Song Foundry’s patented seven steps to getting there, all in good time.   1. Face reality Once again: there is no shortcut to achieving anything truly worthwhile. No one became an award-winning, hit-spinning songwriter overnight. These steps are simple but not easy. They take years of dedication, perseverance and self-belief to put into effect. No one is exempted from that. Let’s get a reality check: if you’re looking for shortcuts you’re in the wrong profession.   2. Lose any and all sense of entitlement Building a career as an artist is one of the most challenging things you can do (see Step 1). There is no correlation between talent, fame, notoriety and income. Art imitates life: life is unfair; art isn’t any better. Still, there is nothing to be gained by telling yourself you’re owed or entitled to anything. Period. It creates a needy self-limiting victim mentality which undermines your ability to do positive things that keep you moving forward. People can sense entitlement and, even if it’s justified, it’s not a quality that endears you to others. Fight it at all costs. You need to build good relationships with people (see Step 5) and self-entitlement isn’t going to help you do that. Replace any sense of...
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...
Why I Object to People Who Call Me Talented

Why I Object to People Who Call Me Talented

If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. MICHELANGELO Let’s put another common belief in the interrogation chamber: that talent is innate. That we’re either born with certain abilities, or at the very least we nurture them when we’re young – maybe because our parents took us to a certain class or club – and thereafter there’s not much we can do about it. In the case for, there are some skills and professions where genetics and physical abilities play major roles. I’m quite short-sighted, so there’s nil chance I’ll wind up a fighter pilot. I’m naturally quite slim and don’t have particularly athletic genes, so I’m not holding out hope for being a world wrestling champion. But what about being a creative artist? What of the common view that some people just ‘have it in them’, while others don’t? It just doesn’t work like that. If you have the physical pre-requisites of a brain, one or more arms, one or more eyes and – for some art forms – a pair of ears, you’re more than qualified as far as physical requirements go. Congratulations. Add to that some vestige of a soul and you’re all set. Cultivating the skills and confidence needed to be a successful artist is a long process. But it’s a process that everyone is capable of. What differentiates professional artists and civilians is that some people commit to this process in a serious way, and some people just don’t. Yes, there are advantages to starting young. A lack of fear and a lack of having to worry about...
The Importance of Being Full of Yourself

The Importance of Being Full of Yourself

One common thought that afflicts many creative artists also happens to be one of the most destructive: ‘Who am I to put my work out into the world?’ That little voice that nags away saying ‘Why should I impose my style, my voice, my ideas on the world?’ Here’s a better question: why shouldn’t you? It’s not egocentric to share what you have with the world. Your audience chooses to invest in you and your work. You’re not forcing yourself on anyone. So what if your work won’t speak to everyone?  That doesn’t matter. It’s the core of people it does speak to who matter. Who knows what subtle or portentous ways your style, your voice or your ideas may influence them? By holding any of that in you’re only doing the world a disservice. The truth is that we all owe it to our audience – current or potential – to share what we’ve got. That’s not arrogant. No-one is saying that makes you better than anyone else. Life is about variety of experience: if you don’t bring your platter to the table the world is poorer for that. Because ultimately, it’s not really about being full of yourself at all. It’s about being full of what you, and only you, can do for the world. How you and your work can touch, motivate and inspire other people. How it can do all of those things in a way that’s unique and personal to you. It’s not vain or arrogant to have a sense of drive and direction. It’s not selfish to use your self-expression for some wider...
Seth Godin: Fail Until You Succeed

Seth Godin: Fail Until You Succeed

We don’t often acknowledge it, but as songwriters we’re entrepreneurs. We’re small business owners and that business is our work. We’re creating something from nothing with the aim of finding an audience to consume it. Seth Godin is an celebrated entrepreneurship guru, founder of numerous companies and author of a handful of books. In this interview, courtesy of Entrepreneur Magazine, he dispenses a ton of wisdom useful for songwriters: in particular the value of failing until you succeed, or in our case writing and writing until something takes off. If you enjoy the video you can also check out Godin’s exceptional book The Purple Cow on being remarkable in a world overwhelmed by unremarkable...