You Can’t Over-Optimize Your Songwriting Process

Some days (ahem, months) can be a real struggle when it comes to art. There are so many songwriting tools within the craft that you can use (metaphor, imagery, prosody, etc.), and then there are literal tools everywhere, helping us with our songwriting process, letting us write just a little faster.

Rhyming dictionaries, thesauruses, word generators.

Websites that can be really helpful while writing songs.

Templates that you just fill in.

Apps for planning out your schedule by the minute.

While I do believe that it is really important to be organized and resourceful with songwriting, there comes a point when I’ve spent most of my time doing prep work. I’ve collected all the apps and books and websites, I’ve planned out my days to incorporate writing, I’ve built my songwriting space, I’ve plotted out practically every single line of a song—and yet, I have nothing to show for it.

I haven’t written, I’ve over-optimized.

And that’s the thing. We’re artists, not machines. Not every song is going to be the same “quality”. Not every song is going to connect the way we want it to, no matter how much we plan.

I believe the habits of optimizing come naturally to a type of creative that enjoys productivity, the ones that read self-help books and use their calendars when they don’t have to. It can be really addicting to feel like something has been accomplished because it’s been planned. It can be really helpful to plan something out before writing to give it structure and break through any writer’s block, but where do we draw the line?

For me, I’m trying to recognize where I’ve been attempting to optimize as a form of procrastination. When I find myself in the throes of re-arranging my music studio, I reel it back in with some self-awareness. Am I really unorganized or missing something in my process, or am I compensating for the fact that I am afraid to write a bad song?

And it really might be that simple. If you’re like me and have some of these habits, try stepping back one day and decide:

“I’ve done enough. Now it’s time to actually write.”

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