If you’re a songwriter then you have probably experienced the wonderful satisfaction that comes when you’ve finally completed a song. You might feel as though you’ve accomplished something very worthwhile, something meaningful.
Along with this, there often follows a desire, almost a need, to share the song you’ve written with others. That is, until you realize there is a certain degree of risk involved if you do. What if they don’t like it? Are you willing to be vulnerable and take the risk?
When you put your heart and soul into a song it will become very important to you. The last thing you want is for your song to be thought of as trivial. After all, you may have revealed some very personal aspects of your life; things that have hurt you, or changed you.
Becoming a Successful Songwriter
As you have probably discovered, songwriting has a way of releasing all those pent-up emotions inside of you. There is a freedom that comes from singing the words you would probably never be able to speak. What joy! What liberation! Sometimes you want to sing it from the rooftops for the whole world to hear! But, let me ask you again, what if they don’t like it?
Being a songwriter isn’t easy. It requires work, patience, time, and a willingness to be vulnerable. It requires a willingness to be misunderstood and ridiculed. It requires a willingness to learn and be on display for others to critique and judge. Are you willing to do that? Is it worth it?
The word vulnerable means: “capable of being wounded or hurt; open to criticism; open to attack.”
There have been times when I’ve been in front of an audience where I had to fight back the tears while singing a song I wrote. The words will hit me like a ton of bricks and I’ll wonder what in the world I’m doing singing about these things to strangers. They don’t know me. They don’t care what I’ve been through. Memories that I thought were dead and buried will rise to the surface again as if they happened yesterday. These kind of experiences often leave me feeling overwhelmed and exposed.
There have been other times however, when I have had to sing with all my might just to get people to listen to me. It’s almost like I’m not even there. People are talking, moving around, perhaps even bored. This can be very frustrating and humiliating for a songwriter to say the least.
Then there is always the human tendency that people have of comparing your song, your voice, your guitar playing, or whatever, with someone else they’ve heard before. One time, after I had just finished playing a guitar piece written by Bach, someone said something to me like: “so and so plays that piece just beautifully, don’t you think?” You can imagine how that made me feel…”
But you know what I’ve learned? Being a successful songwriter isn’t only about what people think or say. Though you may have a desire for your music to be appreciated by others, that isn’t necessarily the bottom line. This became more clear to me when I was watching the Olympics recently. These gifted athletes spend years of their lives training for this special event. They want to have the chance to win a gold medal for their country. They want to have the chance to show the world they are the best. But even though they may truly be the best, something unexpected happens and their dreams are suddenly dashed. Does that mean they are no longer the gifted athlete they once thought they were? Does that mean they no longer have anything to offer?
Well, of course not! They still have very much to offer. In fact, they may have gained an even deeper insight into who they are and what they do because they’ve experienced such a great defeat. This may also give them an advantage in future competitions, or if they go on to teaching their skills to others. The real bottom line is they are an athlete first and foremost. That’s who and what they are.
In the same way, you are a songwriter. You are who you are, and you do what you do, because that is your interest, your passion. So take a lesson from the Olympians and put your whole self into it. Be the best you can be. Listen to constructive criticism, it can help you. Throw the rest away.
I’ve noticed that when I really put everything I’ve got into singing a song I’ve written, I usually get a better response from the audience. It’s as though they can identify with me and feel what I’m feeling. Perhaps they’ve experienced similar pain, joy or beauty in their lives which they can relate to. Whenever that happens, I know it was well worth the risk of becoming vulnerable to public opinion. But what about you? Are you willing to become a vulnerable songwriter too?