Before you read this blog, take a couple of minutes to listen to my latest song. I think it’s one of the best I have written so far. It’s a country song with a “rap” middle 8.
How many rejections do you have to get before someone says yes to one of your songs?
While that sounds like a perverted Bob Dylan lyric, it’s a question asked by many people who write songs. While there is no one definitive answer, I can tell you how many it was for me. A young country agreed to record one of my songs on her first CD after I received 370 rejections from other artists and publishers over the course of a year.
It took over a year to get one artist to say yes. And while that’s no guarantee that more of my songs will be placed with other artists, it is, as an optimist would say, “A start.”
In this age of the Internet, everyone is a critic. If you’ve decided on any creative endeavor, even writing a blog, get ready for a shit storm of negative comments. Even if you’re the next Stephen King or George Gershwin, the anonymous fools on the Internet will make sure to slam whatever you do.
If they’re male, I’m betting they’re impotent and living in their parent’s basement at age 37. Anonymous female critics on the Internet are probably frigid, loveless and just miserable. Once you accept that, their “snarky” comments will be much easier to take. I have already written a blog about the anonymous cowards on the Internet so I won’t waste more time with them. (I do imagine their suicide rate is pretty high.)
If you have decided to make a living as a songwriter, I wish you much luck, which, like all luck, you will make yourself. According to industry sources the average songwriter makes less than $6,000 a year. Sure, you can make serious money of you write a huge hit and maintain the publishing rights, but those cases are truly rare.
How did I maintain a positive outlook with 370 rejections? It wasn’t easy. Some days I thought I’d quit and settle down into a quiet retired life. I did this for a few weeks here and there, but I kept writing everyday. That’s something you have to do. Write everyday, whether you’re inspired or not.
Along with carving out some time to write everyday, you should carry a portable recorder with you all the time so you can make quite notes when a flash of inspiration hits.
“But what about writer’s block?” While some say it’s just an excuse for laziness, writer’s block is real. Here are some ways I’ve been able to overcome it.
1. I never forget the words of Tommy West (musician and Jim Croce’s producer). He said, “Jim Croce became successful after he started telling the truth in his songs. Before tunes like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” Jim wrote about very ethereal topics and fantasy. Then he started writing about people and things he knew and situations he had witnessed. The hits started happening.
2. Start playing another accompanying instrument. When I started playing the ukulele, my songwriting took a big leap. Same thing with the autoharp and the banjo. Writing on an instrument other than guitar really helped me.
3. Find a local writing partner. Sitting across from one another like Paul and John did is a great way to shake writer’s block.
4. Read things you would never read. If you mostly read fiction, read non-fiction and vice versa. To shake things up, I read a bit of good fiction. Many times it knocks the writer’s block right off.
5. Take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been before. This really helps to kick writer’s block.
6. Get involved with your community. The more people you know, the more stories you have.
7. Try writing in an unusual place, on a mountaintop, at the beach, in a park, even another room, etc.
8. Go to songwriter showcases. Along with the possibility of meeting a writing partner, once you realize how awful most other writers and performers are, it will be easier to write something great.
9. Keep a daily journal. You probably do this already. If you do, make sure you are documenting your daily life in great detail. Read the previous day’s accounts thoroughly the next day.
10. Start listening to musical forms you have never listened to in the past. Listening to classical, jazz, world music, etc., can get your creative juices flowing.
11. As I said before, write everyday! Even during a “dry spell” you could come up with something good. If that happens, kiss your current writer’s block goodbye.
Good luck and good writing! Oh yeah, and don’t let the bastards get you down!