Choosing To Be Terrible Can Help You Become A Great Songwriter

Confession time: I’m a below-average guitar player, I couldn’t write a hit melody to save my life, and I sing like a horse.  But you know what?  Choosing to stay awful at those things has helped me become a successful songwriter.  

Choosing to be terrible just might help you, too.

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I’m not kidding when I say I’m not good at singing, playing or writing melody.  It isn’t false humility- it’s the truth.  I’m not naturally gifted at any of those things.  And that’s okay.  I’ve still been able to write some cuts and get a song or two on the radio.  As a matter of fact, choosing to stay awful at those things has been one of my wisest business decisions.

Choosing to be terrible at most things has helped me be great at a few things.

I’m a word guy.  Words and ideas are my thing.  I’ve always played with words and made up stories.  That’s my natural gift.  so early in my songwriting journey, I decided that my best chance for success was to be great at one thing- at least ONE thing.  I didn’t have to be great at everything.

I went all-in on my natural strengths.

I could’ve wasted a lot of time just trying to get my singing, playing and melodies up to average.  And the time spent on those skills (or lack thereof) is time I could’ve been using to sharpen my lyrical skills.  I could’ve ended up being average at everything.

Nobody turns pro by being average.

I figured if I got great at lyrics and ideas, I’d earn a seat at the table.  While nobody is dying for a mediocre lyricist, a lot of songwriters value what a highly skilled lyricist can bring to a cowrite.  That’s where I’ve made my value and created opportunities.

Of course, I’d love to be great at everything.  But, like most writers… everything ain’t my thing.

You’re probably not good at everything, either.

I mean… if you ARE outstanding at several skills… God bless you.  Run with them.  That’s awesome.  But if you’re like most of us, you have some strengths and you have some weaknesses.

Is it time to go ALL-IN on your strengths?

Are you missing the chance to be remarkable at something- to have a calling card as a songwriter- in an effort to be great at everything?  If you have one really valuable skill that people need, you’ll have the opportunity to be successful.  You don’t have to be great at everything.

After all, that’s why God made cowriters.

 

What do YOU think about this?  Are you equally skilled at several things, or do you have one “songwriting superpower?”  Do you think you’ve focused too much on your weaknesses and not enough on your strengths?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

By the way, I’m blessed to be the new owner of a cool site called Frettie.com!  It’s a place for songwriters to share our songs, get creative kickstarters, and a bunch of other cool stuff.   Check it out if you get a chance.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

7 thoughts on “Choosing To Be Terrible Can Help You Become A Great Songwriter”

  1. No I’m not equally gifted. I’m definitely a ‘word guy’, but a Christian music ‘mentor’ made it plain to me that it wasn’t enough. During his mentorship session, I was cut off from the only writing partner I had found (at his insistence). He was sure I would come up with my own fully written and produced stuff.
    I was soundly rebuked for asking for a writing partner and was told to find my own.

    I don’t want to sound bitter. Actually I’m not. It was freeing to understand that I would not be enough for that grouping of individuals, because I wouldn’t be able to keep up with those imposed standards.

    I write this, because I’m guessing there are others out there who have run into the same issue. If a person is a wordsmith, how would said person meet up with their matching melody-maker?

    I like your idea of getting stronger in the area of your strengths. Does your book point out ways to connect with writing partners?

    1. Hi, Theresa. I’m sorry for your experience with that “mentor.” I can understand someone wanting to push you beyond your comfort zone. That’s a good thing. But there’s a balance to it. “Think Like A Pro Songwriter” doesn’t dive too much into how to find cowriters. If start at places like the Songwriting Pro Facebook Group, where you can post lyrics & songs. I know some cowrites have come out of that. There are other places like Frettie.com where you can showcase your work. Of course, if you live in s major music city, you can do a lot of networking in person. Happy hunting!

  2. Thank you, Brent. I don’t think I will do much, at this time. But you have given wonderful instruction.

    Again, I posted this because I’m sure in an effort to be heard, others have spent money to be left somewhat humiliated and disheartened.

    For me it was a wake up call. I’m not the sort of writer that wants to stare at a grape and come up with 7 pieces of writing. I tend to write out of God’s stirring in my heart.

    I’m grateful for the ‘mentor’ experience because it has made me realize I don’t really belong in that arena. So it’s all good.

    I haven’t given up your site, though. I enjoy your writings. I haven’t had time to research your podcasts, but intend to do so.

    I hope you and your family are adjusting well to adoption and all the joy and growth pains it brings. I’m happily the mom of two wonderful kids—-well you know, as wonderful as teens can get..lol. My husband and I wouldn’t exchange this road we’ve travelled, for anything the world could offer. I hope you and your wife find this fulfillment, as well.

    1. We’re all adjusting pretty well, thanks. The new boys are really sweet, and they like being here. We like them being here, too!

  3. Interesting take. When I started out performing, I was a musician/singer who moved into songwriting along the way. I was tired of performing covers, and wanted to be recognized for some originality. As time went on, I enjoyed songwriting more. I also became disillusioned with the performing end, as besides singing (not my forte), guitar playing, and songwriting, I was also responsible for management/booking/publicity duties. Being in a band means that there are multiple personalities, and if they don’t mesh 100%, there will be failures along the way. I became tired of trying to schedule around everyone else’s lives, and when great opportunities came calling, having to pass due to another band member’s lifestyle (family, other hobbies, etc.). Yet when I showed them my first BMI royalty checks, they all wanted in.

    A few years ago (late in my somewhat career), I decided to quit being in bands and concentrate on songwriting. Musically, I have never been happier. I realize that I do not have the voice or guitar skills to go professional, but have made great connections in the industry as well as seen my work appreciated more.

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