Life is short - write your songs

I think everybody starts writing songs in their own way, from their own place.  Most of us face a giant learning curve in doing so -- Ian Tyson's first song was "Four Strong Winds."  A classic.  How does that happen?  I don't know, but it didn't happen that way for me.  I've had to learn, and to make matters more interesting, I started late. I learned slow.  Looking back, an objective observer could be forgiven for wondering why I didn't put the clues together sooner.  But it took me years to discover that I was a songwriter. And more years to learn what that means.

To begin with, I was a poet.  From early grade school, up to and including my university years, that's what I planned to become.  I wrote poetry.  I loved music, with a passion. But I was a poet, if you had asked me. 

I loved music. I loved to sing. I loved to improvise for hours at a time on the common room piano (though usually, in the small hours of the morning when no one could hear and be driven away by accidental music).  I constantly borrowed my friends' guitars, to plink painfully away, just as I had frequently borrowed my Dad's guitar.  I never actually bought a guitar ... I just borrowed them.  (But if anyone had asked, I was a poet.  I even wrote poetry ... about music. )  
OK ... so I didn't actually own a guitar of my own yet.  My very first guitar was a wedding gift from my beloved, around our first anniversary, because in that first year of marriage, we were poorer than dryer lint, but that's another story.  But eventually, after I actually owned a guitar, I got involved in trying to write a song or two, at church.  And eventually, it dawned on me that the love of words and the love of music did not have to be mutually exclusive; they could converge, and did, in an increasingly undeniable urge to write my own songs. Following from that conclusion, it dawned on me that I must also be a songwriter. I was already writing for my daily crust -- journalism, technical writing, public relations and so on -- but I could clearly see that my early lyrical efforts were nothing like the great songs I'd grown up listening to.  I did not yet know how to begin following in their footsteps, much less defining my own path, or finding my own voice. 

So I set out to study the craft of songwriting. I joined groups that offered workshops, like the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA), Songwriters Association of Canada(SAC) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).  I bought books about craft, I read articles, and I began to pay closer attention to evidence, before my eyes (and in my ears) about how songs worked.  

The most important decision I made, starting out, was never to let the challenges and frustrations of this path deflect me from continuing to learn.  

What I discovered is that songwriting is an identity, not just an activity.  You may or may not be writing at any given moment, but if you write songs, you are a songwriter. You are a songwriter when you are thinking about writing, when you are desperately procrastinating, when you are sad and depressed and crushed at some failure to really nail what you thought was a great idea.  And you are a songwriter when you are struggling to exercise your craft, and actually write.  At all of these times, and with or without success as it is commonly measured, you are a songwriter. It's probably not your entire identity, but it's still an important part.  It matters.  

And if that is your situation, as it was mine, we are walking down the same path. If you are stalled, get started again. Join a workshop, and find the company of others who understand this.  

Life is short -- write your songs! 

Best regards


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