photo by Juliana Coutinho
A few weeks ago now, Matt Blick and I agreed to hold one another accountable for writing every day. The arrangement has been really helpful to me, so I thought I’d share the most noticeable benefits.
Here’s why you should get a songwriting buddy.
Encouragement from a fellow songwriter is just as important as kind words from friends and family who don’t know the craft. You’d be surprised how much mileage you can get out of a simple “Great, keep it up!” from your partner in crime.
Hearing about another person’s daily progress is inspiring and will remind you to write. If you’ve been slacking and your partner has written three songs and recorded two meanwhile, it might give you that extra little push that you need.
“What’d you write today, Buster?”
This might be the best thing about having somebody keep an eye on you: if you take a day off, you have to report it. While I don’t believe anybody should turn their creative habit into a guilt game, I do think it’s a good idea to make your days off a conscious choice instead of a forgetful habit.
A pleasant side effect of the buddy system: it encourages me to work on songs in ways that are measurable. For example, Matt might say, “I wrote the first verse for my new song today.” If I respond with “I, uh, worked on a song for awhile,” it sounds like I’m being a total weasel, doesn’t it? If at the end of a day I can’t articulate exactly what I got done, I probably wasn’t working very hard.
It’s easy to fall into a trap of constantly thinking about songwriting without actually doing much writing… or to just sit around playing a favorite song-in-progress over and over and over, without gaining any ground. Or to noodle on the guitar.
This has been the most helpful aspect for me, because I’ve been very slow to release the real results of my labors. There are sixty-four songwriting articles on this website, and none of my actual music.
A fellow songwriter whom you trust can give you valuable criticism and informed praise for your efforts. Your songwriting buddy can help point out what’s working and what’s broken, and give you a good first opinion—you should always balance their views with your own, and with other outside perspectives, of course.
A Few Suggestions
- You can find a buddy at local songwriting circles, online forums, or anywhere else songsters gather. In a pinch, you can even make do with a non-musical friend whom you can hold accountable for something of their choosing… but an actual songwriter is still best, I think.
- I’ve had the best luck sticking to one person to report to. As groups grow, absences aren’t as conspicuous and there’s less accountability for playing hooky.
- Put your reports in writing. Facebook or e-mail will do. The idea is to keep a written record so you can look back on your accomplishments.
- Don’t let it become a guilt game—just report what you did every day. Just to track progress. If there was little or no progress, track that too. Don’t make excuses, don’t give reasons. Just report it. Like a time clock.
- Use quantitative measurements. State exactly what you worked on and what it did for you. State the number of minutes or hours spent. Be clear!
Feel free to use the comments section of this article as a bulletin board for finding your own songwriting buddy! Have fun.
- A Word of Encouragement from a Master Musician and Theoretician
- The Songwriter’s Compass: How to Set a Course and Make Progress Every Day
- 42 Days of Object Writing Update
Nicholas Tozier is an independent singer, songwriter, private music instructor, blogger, and instructor at Ampersand Academy of Dance & the Performing arts centered in Gardiner, Maine. His first album, A Game with Shifting Mirrors, is slated for self-release in Fall 2010.