Whether you’re an amateur songwriter hoping to “go pro” or you’re a young pro trying to break through to the next level, a key element of success is simply to keep going. But that isn’t always easy.
For every person pulling a U-Haul into Nashville, there’s someone moving back home because they just don’t have the heart anymore. So, how do you give yourself the best chance to keep going? Here are a few ways.
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1. Connect with your “why.”
If you don’t have a clear understanding of WHY you write, it’s really hard to answer the dark-valley question, “Why should I keep trying?” When the music biz knocks you down (and it will), you need to know why getting up matters. Maybe not why it matters to the world, but at least why it matters to YOU.
Maybe you write because you know that’s how you’re wired, and you’ll go crazy if you abandon it. Maybe you write to leave a legacy of song for your children’s children. Maybe you write to share life lessons- to remind yourself as well as others of hard-earned truth. Maybe it’s to prove to yourself that you can do it. Or maybe you write to make people smile for three minutes in an often heartbreaking world.
Whatever drives you to write, you should have a clear picture of it. The “why” is what will give you a reason to dust yourself off and get back in the arena.
2. Celebrate the small victories.
Don’t ignore or downplay the small victories- especially early in your journey. Be grateful. Let the little victories give you confidence and fuel for the journey.
These are YOUR victories. They don’t have to meet anyone else’s standards of what’s worth celebrating.
For a few years, some buddies and I passed around a football- a “game ball” – when we’d have a music victory. It got passed around for everything from indie cuts, publishing deals, big cowrites, 1st demo sessions, and more. Those weren’t the victories that the biggest writers in town were probably celebrating, but they were new, positive steps for us. It gave us a reason to celebrate together. We also had a friendly rivalry going, because each of us wanted to “get the game ball” back on our own mantles!
3. Connect with a supportive community.
We all need people who encourage, support, and believe in us. They can be online or face-to-face, family or friends, cowriters or non-songwriting creatives. It doesn’t matter who they are, just that they will support you. And be sure and support them, too!
If you’re looking for a supportive community, I suggest the Songwriting Pro Facebook Group and Frettie.com. I host both groups, and I love watching songwriters like you making progress and earning new victories on your songwriting journeys.
4. Display visual reminders.
Remind yourself that you’re a songwriter. Remind yourself of your dreams and goals. Remind yourself of your victories. Create a vision board with pictures of your songwriting-dream-come-true.
Get a good song review from a community like Frettie.com? Print it out and hang in your writing space! Score an indie cut? Congrats! It doesn’t matter if it goes gold, platinum or plywood- get a CD frame and hang it up to remind yourself that someone likes one of your songs enough to record it.
Also, keep your guitar and/or writing notebook out where they’re visible – and available. Don’t keep them hidden in a closet or a drawer somewhere. You’re a writer. Don’t let yourself forget that.
5. Pace yourself.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be persistent, but be patient. You have to find a family/money/music balance that is sustainable over the course of years, not just months.
It might mean you can’t quit your day job just yet. Maybe you can only write one night a week for now. Sure, we all want instant gratification, but patience pays off.
6. Protect a positive attitude.
To stay in it for the long haul, you have to believe success is possible, and a lot of belief simply comes from your mind-set.
Seeing the glass as half-empty will cause your dreams to die of thirst.
Watch what comes out of your mouth. Not only does what you say reflect what’s in your heart, it reinforces it. Practice speaking positively- strengthen that part of yourself.
Had a bad publisher meeting? Don’t focus on the disappointment. Focus on what you were able to learn from that meeting (even if all you learned is that you have more to learn). Get a song to an artist, but they didn’t record it? Focus on the fact that you were able to actually get a song heard! I bet that wasn’t always the case. So you’ve made progress!
7. Make a new connection.
Yes, we’d all love to suddenly become best buddies with <insert your favorite artist or songwriter>. But that’s probably not going to happen today or tomorrow. But who CAN you reach out to? Where can you become a blip on someone’s radar and begin to build a relationship?
The music business is based on both music AND relationships. Sometimes when then music isn’t working like we’d hope, we can keep some forward progress by focusing on relationship-building. “Well, Publisher X didn’t love my song, but I got to meet Hit Writer Z this week!”
And you know I don’t like to throw out suggestions without providing an opportunity to put them into practice. So I have a really great opportunity coming up for you!
In February, I’m hosting Frettie’s “Know The Row” with hit songwriter, Byron Hill! This is your chance to sit down face-to-face (online) with a real-deal professional songwriter. Since moving to Nashville and signing his first publishing deal in 1978, Byron’s songs have generated more than 700 recordings, and have been released on ninety-one industry certified Gold and Platinum albums and singles! Wow.
You and I BOTH want to learn what Byron has to share.
Here’s the deal. You can join us online from anywhere in the world on Thursday, February 8, 2018 from 7pm-8pm Central time. And this special event is FREE to members of Frettie.com! (But don’t worry- you can still purchase a ticket even if you don’t want to take advantage of all of Frettie’s membership benefits.)
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, a #1 in Canada & a top 10 in Texas… so far.