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The One Secret You Need to Make Every Songwriting Session a Win

The One Secret You Need to Make Every Songwriting Session a Win

by John ChisumAugust 23, 2016

IMG_3731Have you ever set aside some time to write, but then NOTHING happened? You turned off the cell phone, shut down the laptop, got out the guitar or
went to the keys, but were absolutely dry inside? Zip? Nada? Nothing?

You probably know the feeling… you stare at the page for an hour with NOTHING…You type some words on the screen and then ERASE THEM, like 12 times…You sit and play the same THREE CHORDS over and over on the guitar or keys and you get so BORED you just give up and go get a big bowl of ice cream?

Then you’re left sitting there judging yourself and being all Les Mis because you’re not getting anything done, feeling like a loser and wondering if you’ll EVER get a
great song written, right? For a songwriter, this is death.

And, what’s worse is that this one bad songwriting session can easily turn into another bad songwriting session and another and another, UNTIL your frustration has compounded to the point you don’t even want to write anymore because you just can’t face the disappointment with yourself.

But, what if you had a simple solution, a way to sidestep the frustration, and a proven method to make every songwriting session a win? Wouldn’t that be more than awesome? Of course it would! So, here it, the “secret” to making every songwriting session deliver results. I’ve used this “formula” to write and publish
over 400 songs personally and to manage dozens of professional songwriters and produce hundreds of records, books, musicals, and other products.

First, have a songwriting goal for every session. Getting clear about what you want to write and why you want to write it is a quantum leap towards your success. Going into a session with no target will leave you wandering around chord
progressions and lyric starts that may never lead you anywhere. Having a clear goal means you can actually measure results. Am I writing for children today? A worship song for my church? Something for radio or artists to hear and possibly record? Is it a message in my heart to sing?

Second, always be adding to your songwriting skill set.Most songwriters stay stuck where they are because they’re not investing in developing their skill set. If you aren’t finishing songs, there’s a reason. If you aren’t finding and developing great hooks and titles, there are reasons. If your songs are consistently average instead of amazing, it means that you need to take some intentional steps towards getting the tools you need to improve. While God inspires song ideas, it’s rare that He furnishes them in complete form. We have our part to play in crafting them beautifully.

Third, be making constant mindset adjustments for success. As in peak athletes, much of songwriting is about mindset. Mindset is that collection of experiences and attitudes that shape us in every arena of life and our songwriting will reflect it like a mirror. If we’re lazy, our songwriting will reflect sloppy lines and lackluster impact. If we’re neat, tidy housekeepers, we may reflect terse, concise verses and compact choruses. If our current results aren’t what we want to be getting, it’s always at least partially a mindset issue—we’re just not thinking about songwriting in a successful manner.

Imagine this scene. Two artists are standing by a beautiful river. It’s a perfect day with just the right mix of light from the sun and scattered clouds, the landscape is lush with foliage and color, and all is teeming with life. It’s an artist’s dreamscape and both are prepared to capture this gorgeous image on canvas. But here’s the difference: one artist is a master and the other is a child. They both see the same scene but will be unable to interpret it equally.

While there’s certainly beauty and value in the child’s innocent and clumsy interpretation, she’s simply not grown to the point of mastery and no amount of paint on the canvas can make up for it. She must grow, mature, add to her skills, and paint a lot more than one or two canvases to master the skills needed to create a lasting masterpiece.

So, here’s how you can make every songwriting session a win, regardless of the outcome: let every session teach you something new about songwriting. Okay, that was simple, yet profound. The secret is to shift your mindset about the session and go in ready to discover something fresh, something new, something you didn’t know about songwriting.

It may teach you that you need to work on a skill set because you couldn’t nail that chorus. It might teach you that discouragement is your real problem and you need some mindset work. It might teach you that your focus has been on so many other
things in life that you’ve not taken the time to fill yourself with the Word, or with the beauty of nature, or with the simple joy of abundant life in Jesus, and you need to go do more of that before trying to write.

Every songwriting session can teach us something, if we’ll listen and have an open mind. When we can approach each session with an “inspired indifference,” we can exercise objectivity and creativity we may not otherwise have, especially if our ego needs are so tied up with results that we get discouraged when nothing happens. Make these simple songwriting mindset shifts and watch your productivity soar!

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About The Author
John Chisum
John Chisum is a pioneer in the Christian music business, serving alongside people such as Bill & Gloria Gaither, Twila Paris, Paul Baloche, Don Moen, and many more. As Managing Partner of Nashville Christian Songwriters, John seeks to empower Christian songwriters worldwide to discover and fulfill their call to write.
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