Like everyone, I experience self-doubt when it comes to songwriting. Along with music having a brutal, messy industry, it was pretty early on when I realized just how many other songwriters are out there. Part of being a musician is getting passed on and rejected, and after many of those instances, I can feel pretty harshly towards my songs and get discouraged.
I’ve gone through cycles of feeling doubt and feeling inspired, but for the first time since those exciting beginning stages of writing, I am consistently in the positive category. I definitely recognize that not every song I write is my best, but it bothers me much less and I still write happily. I made some changes in my goals towards songwriting that have made a huge difference, but this was the biggest one:
I took on an educational mindset.
People talk about the abundance mindset (ex. assume you are a great songwriter and you will play the role), but after a few days, I was back to square one with that sinking feeling of self-doubt. I was then introduced to an educational mindset, where you focus only on learning and improving your skills.
There is always something to learn about songwriting, even if I have to dig a little. It took a few tries, but I shifted my thinking about my music less in the direction of, “Are my songs good?” or “Why doesn’t anyone like my song?” and thought more towards, “How does this lyric support what I’m trying to say?” and “Do my chords connect?”. This was a different world and it changed everything.
An educational mindset might seem obvious—I certainly thought it was when I was introduced to it—but I hadn’t made the actual change towards thinking this way. Shifting mindsets isn’t always easy, but once I put in the work, I connected with songwriting again.
I realized what I actually loved about songwriting in the beginning was the craft, not the recognition. I appreciated other songs for the songwriting and less for how popular they were. By focusing on reading books, listening to podcasts, getting feedback on my music and studying songwriting with instructors, I remembered what makes songs great to me and what I love to write.
I appreciated other songs for the songwriting and less for how popular they were.
And understanding why I love to write was a big step towards understanding that I could only write for myself. Not everyone experiences songwriting and music this way. For me, I came to recognize that while not every song had to be about my life, every song had to be something I wanted to write. Whether it was an interesting riff, a compelling title, etc., I had to be excited by it.
Becoming a better songwriter is a journey. I definitely don’t believe I am the best songwriter out there, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I feel much more excited about the aspects of songwriting I have yet to discover, learn and use in my writing. I write with co-writers and we share the struggle of this journey. I write a little every day, no matter how good or bad it is, and get that next song finished.
For me, the goal might not necessarily be to overcome self-doubt—just how to love songwriting despite it.