Do you want to ignite, empower and transform your songwriting? Do you want to take your songwriting doubts to songwriting clout?
What if some of the ‘stories’ you’re telling yourself about your songwriting aren’t serving you to move forward and become the songwriter you’ve always dreamed of?
I was 12 when I first started writing songs. They had descriptive verses about how I was feeling and choruses that had flowery melodies. These were written on a page in my precious song lyrics book.
I was so excited about my songs and felt a HUGE sense of achievement with each one. I remember feeling so alive when writing like I finally could experience all of myself.
As a result, I would show my new songs proudly to my parents, eager for their approval. However, given that they had seen my little fingers play a Bach Prelude and Fugue on the piano, they weren’t overly impressed with my self-made songs that had simple lyrics and chordal accompaniment. I exuded enormous energy around my songwriting, and theirs did not match it. As a result, I felt deflated.
I showed my songs to friends in my school choir. They were impressed! “Wow, that’s so cool; how did you do that? Can you play it again?” – I immediately felt their approval. Then, as they were also musical, they started to make suggestions for how the song could sound. This made me uncomfortable, “What was wrong with my song? Why were they finding faults? They don’t write songs; who were they to tell me this?”
Most people didn’t match my energy and excitement for songwriting or had something critical to say (even though I thought they weren’t qualified to say it), so I created a fortress to protect my creative magic.
The growth of my songs and the continued search for approval
Years later, I started playing my songs, tentatively, at covers gigs. My audience became the first people to hear them, and they clapped. Their applause, along with being paid, felt like some approval.
I knew I wanted more for my songs, so I took them to a studio to record them, pressed them to CD, sent them to radio stations and festivals, and used them to apply for grants. I did this, assuming this was the pathway to becoming an artist.
Before bringing my songs to the stage or studio, no one had really heard them before. They were simply my finished songs – which in my eyes, was something that I could play from beginning to end. Of the 30 songs I had written, I picked the ones I liked best, confirmed only by myself.
When is a good song, a good song?
Sometimes these same self-proclaimed “amazing songs” caused me to panic. “Was this really my best work? Was this as good as I thought it was?”
This spiral of questioning cemented in a lack of success in my career. Radio stations weren’t really playing my songs, I wasn’t getting festival gigs, and unsuccessful grant application emails flooded in.
As my music career wasn’t going anywhere, I doubted myself, my journey, work, ideas and choices. I felt utterly debilitated, and my lack of confidence, support and success started to negatively affect my songwriting.
When I went to write a song – I got stuck. I would hit a wall when I doubted something and didn’t have the tools to work past this. My inner critic would judge everything as not being good enough and completely shut down my songwriting process.
I started to creatively dry up and created a thick wall of “protection” around myself and my songs that felt isolated and alone.
Making songwriting joyful and empowering again
At the lowest point of my depression, anxiety, and isolation, I made a tiny desperate promise to myself that I would find a way out of this darkness. I did this by writing one song at a time, next to other songwriters doing the same thing.
I created a low expectation songwriting practice with others, spending just one hour a week writing a song to completion. We would then share that creation for accountability and feedback.
At first, I felt vulnerable. I had spent decades fearing judgment around my songs. Quickly into creating this weekly practice, however, I started to feel a massive sense of relief from the stress of my self-judgement. I learned that my self-judgement was stronger than anyone else’s judgement of me. When I could quieten that self-judgment, I could hear and lean into the support of others.
The input, encouragement and songwriting tips from other songwriters taught me how others received my songs and my message. I learned things about my songs like:
- How is it connecting to them?
- Is it clear what my song is about?
- What are the strongest lyrics, and what feels weakest to them?
The feedback also allowed me the space to go back to old ideas that I knew didn’t work to develop them further and gain more objective clarity about my own work.
The benefits of peer feedback
Songwriters understand the stress and self-doubt that come with the songwriting process. They can hear beyond the demo and know what kind of feedback you want because they want it too. This mutually beneficial relationship allows everyone the opportunity to be heard, seen and recognised for their gifts and what they have to say.
As part of this exercise, songs are tried and tested in a safe, inclusive environment. We are all part of each others songwriting journey and can encourage and support one another, building community, connection, empathy and so much more.
Sharing art for self-expression and connection
Writing songs every week simply for practice and having a community of songwriters can be achieved by simply doing the following:
- Write down the names of three songwriting friends who are as passionate as you about songwriting.
- Choose one hour a week and ask those friends if they will join you to share new songs
- Before you meet, write a song or dust off an old one and practice it, ready to share. Get the others to do the same and print the lyrics in preparation to share
On the date, gather in person or online, bring some snacks and go around the group sharing your songs. After you play your songs, facilitate a conversation with the group to get feedback.
Here are some suggestions for doing that:
- Ask them to point out their favourite parts and what they feel the song is about
- If you’re open to useful next-step feedback, ask them if there were any parts of the song that weren’t clear and any suggestions for what you might do next
- Go around the group and repeat this process for everyone
Do this again the following week, and before you know it, you’ll have a regular group of songwriters getting together, sharing songs and giving useful feedback.
The easiest way to join a songwriting club
If the above isn’t possible, how about doing this all online from the comfort of your couch whilst connecting with songwriters from all over the world? If you want to have more songwriting joy, more listeners of your new songs, more conversations about songwriting and more new songs – we’d love to help you.
I Heart Songwriting Club is now the name of that same global community of songwriters that I created years ago. A community of peers who understand the benefits of writing songs every week and sharing them.
When you join the Club, you’re put into a small online group with about 10 other songwriters. You simply write a song in one hour each week to a given theme that gets you thinking outside the box. After the hour, make a no-fuss voice memo recording on your phone and upload it to your group via our easy-to-use platform. Each group member then listens to each song and gives supportive and helpful feedback for further development, should you take the song further.
The main activities of the Club happen asynchronously, so you don’t have to be anywhere at any specific time. This means you might be writing alongside other songwriters in completely different regions to you. There are even further opportunities to level up your skills with mentoring, workshops and more.
Members say that they have started to feel like a “real songwriter” for the first time in their lives thanks to I Heart Songwriting Club, and we’d love to extend the invitation to you. We’d love for you to join us, focus on the joy of songwriting and connect with other songwriters giving and receiving feedback. We’ll take care of everything else for you!