Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Aim for the target (not the clouds)

After yesterday's lengthy post about how to avoid the difficulties in the creative process, I realized that I left out a very important point.

When you're starting a songwriting session — or starting any creative work — take a sober and realistic look at the resources that are available for your song. Work within your budget, the business people say, and it's a principal that's just as important in music as in business, although the budget you're working with might not be measured in dollars. Work within the constraints of your actual situation.

Who is going to perform or record the song? For example, if you're going to perform it by yourself at a coffeehouse, then don't write vocal harmonies. There's only one singer.

If you're writing for a specific band, write for the band's actual talents, not for the band that you wish you had. If the band can't play funk to save their lives, don't write them a funk song. The band will sound bad, your song will sound bad, and everyone will be unhappy.

It doesn't matter how good a song sounds in your head. It's easy to have things sound good in your head. Your goal should be to have your songs sound good in reality. And I'm not talking about any possible reality, I'm talking about your actual current situation.

Does this mean you have to compromise your creative ideals and betray your timeless inspirations all because of some short-term shortcoming? Not at all! Protect those timeless inspirations. Put them in a file folder and save them for a time when your world is ready for them.

As a songwriter, you can avoid a lot of difficulties simply by writing things that are easy to write and easy to perform. Remember that a song isn't a good song in reality until someone actually delivers a good performance of it. And it's hard to do a good performance of a difficult song.

If you've signed up for February Album Writing Month, be realistic about what you can do withing the constraints of the FAWM challenge. To come up with 14 songs in 28 days, you need to finish a song every two days, and that's on top of work or school or anything else that your schedule demands of you.

This might mean you can only budget two or three hours to write each song. If that's the case, you might have to write shorter, simpler songs songs than you usually write.

Don't think of this as compromising your ideals; think of it as making up your mind that you're going to win this game.

After all, you don't reach a goal line by standing your ground. You get there by taking the ball and running.

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