Writing under duress

We received a question that boils down to ‘How do you write when you’re feeling stressed out?” A short, three word answer is: practice, practice, practice.

And the long answer: It’s no fun trying to accomplish anything when you’re under stress. So it certainly won’t be fun trying to write a song in that condition. But I suggest that forcing yourself to write every day, even when you’re feeling stress, will lead you to overcoming the difficulties. In fact, it might get to the point where songwriting is a way for you to relieve the stress stemming from other parts of your life.

Sure, at first you won’t necessarily be proud of what you’ve written. That’s not important. It’s OK to write stuff that doesn’t end up being great, ideas that don’t pan out, etc. Even the best writers have stuff they would never want us to hear.

Practicing every day is like exercising a muscle. The muscle gets stronger gradually, so slowly you won’t even notice it at first.

A great athlete doesn’t want an audience watching him or her exercise and practice all year. They only want the audience for their big performance at the Olympics, where sports fans can see the results of all that practicing.

Likewise, a songwriter doesn’t want the audience to hear every note he or she writes. But when the big performance comes, songwriters bring out their best work, which came about as a direct result of all that practice.

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2 Responses to “Writing under duress”

  1. mandythompson Says:

    My goal for 2009 is to write 100 songs… I’m not a pro. Barely a semi-pro. And have a number of other time commitments.

    These dynamics force me to write anyway, even when I don’t feel like it. I’m only 5 months & 39 songs into the project, but I can see a vast improvement already…

  2. songwriterstipjar Says:

    I’m all for self-imposed limits and deadlines. Any goal like that has to be helpful for lots of reasons. For one, it motivates you to write. Also, someday you will be in a position to have a real deadline for a film or album project and you’ll already be familiar with the process/pressure.

    Congrats. You are inspiring to the rest of us.

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