I’ve heard lots of songwriter anecdotes about the song that took ten minutes to write. Everybody seems to have one. The prevalence of these stories makes it seem like speed is important, like that’s the goal. I say, who cares how long it took to write the song? Would Lennon’s Imagine be better if it was written faster?
What does speed have to do with it? I confess, I err on the other extreme. I have been known to let a half-written song sit on the back burner for years before finalizing the lyrics and melody. That’s neither good nor bad. In the end, the listener has no idea how long it took to write the song, nor how easy or hard it was.
For me, whenever a song comes fast, I’m always eager to give it another look, a quick rewrite to make it just a little bit better. And then another one to improve the weakest lines. And then another to improve the improvements. Next thing you know, it turns out the only thing that was fast about the song was the first draft.
Reprinted from an article written for SAW Notes, newsletter of Songwriter’s Association of Washington