When Good Songs Go Bad

It’s a common tale: as a youngster your song was full of promise and potential. But as it grew it lost its way. Too many bad influences, too many poor choices. Drugs. Booze. A neck tattoo. Now it’s got no job and no prospects. Your beautiful youngster didn’t become the productive song you envisioned it to be. What are you supposed to do now?

Send it to Military Camp
Most great songs are not written…they are re-written…and re-written…and re-written. They are forged into hits by people that have dedicated themselves to the craft. People that have sung melodies into their answering machines a thousand times, given up parties with friends to hammer out second verses, and lost sleep over single lines. To write like they do you must become disciplined. Constant. Strong, and willing to sacrifice.

If your song has lost its way, put in the hard yards. Songwriting is, after all, work. Set aside time every day to write, and defend it with vigilance and passion. Refuse to accept anything but your best effort. Correct your misguided song by putting it in an environment where it will become the best it can be.

Help It Find Its Own Way
Accept that not every song will end up the way you thought it would when you started. We’re not following a recipe here. We aren’t baking cookies. We are trying to tap into that great cosmic connection called Creativity and discover something new. This means we must be open to crazy ideas and unexpected inspirations that take us in new directions.

Every song is different, and has different needs. When your song needs to follow its own path, prepare to be patient - sometimes for years. In the mean time be observant. Think like a songwriter. Wait for the proper influences and guidance to arrive. Most of all, don’t judge. Just because the song isn’t turning out like you expected doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, the opposite is probably true. You are pushing your boundaries and breaking new creative ground.

Let It Go
Sometimes a song is simply a lost cause. If you’ve nursed one along long enough to become personally attached to it this can be heartbreaking. It’s an “Old Yeller” moment. It feels like failure. It is not. Every song, good or bad, has its own lessons to teach. In fact I would argue I’ve learned more about the craft of songwriting from my failures than my successes.

The more songs you write, the easier it will become for you to recognize the bad ones early on. You will learn to spot the tell-tale signs like words in key places that don’t rhyme well, or melodies that refuse to go anywhere. When you do, you will be faced with a choice: use your knowledge of the craft to redirect the song (or perhaps salvage the parts and use them in something else), or simply abandon it. If your song has completely lost its way, let it go. Release your ideas back to that great cosmic connection called Creativity, and have faith that more, better ideas will come your way in the future.

*photo by Traj-


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