Staff Post

"Songwriter" By Chuck Cannon

chuck cannon

Chuck Cannon is here this Monday with Shawn Mullins. I love this excerpt from his blog about songwriting.


A few thoughts on being a songwriter ...

Write.

Then ...

Write more songs... Never ever get married to the songs you have written... They are only songs you have written ... They are what they are and they will serve you best as what you have done ... not what you will do ...

So ...

Just write more of them. Then when you've written more songs, write some more.

When you have done that, write 500 more.

Then when you have done that, write 1000 more.

Then write some more. Write everyday. Write every night. Fall asleep writing. Wake up writing. Write when you're driving. Write when you're eating. Figure out how to write while you are sleeping. Never go to sleep without a pen and paper by your bed so if you dream an idea you can write it down.

Ok?

So, yes you write songs that are better than the songs that are on the radio. So what. Really! So what? Who gives a rat's ass? You may even think most of those songs suck. But always bear in mind that there are millions and millions of people who think those songs are the absolute greatest songs they have EVER heard!!!

What if your song is better than the song on the radio? Big deal. It just doesn't matter. That is not why you write if you are a writer. You write because you love to write. So write. Write more. And write better. If you are a songwriter, that is what you are here for ...

And face this: your songs suck. If you don't believe me, read the words to 5 Hank Williams songs, then 5 Bob Dylan songs, then 5 Leonard Cohen songs, then 5 Bruce Springsteen songs, then 5 Harlan Howard songs ... then 5 of your songs ... do you see how much your songs suck? If you don't understand why and how much your songs suck, please quit writing.

Then, understand this. There are reasons your songs suck in comparison to these giants. One of those reasons is you don’t get to read their songs that suck... believe me... they wrote and write songs that suck. Another more important reason is you are simply not that good yet. Your only chance is to make it your goal to write as well as they do and did. If it isn't your goal to be that good, quit now. I'm not saying write like they do. You can't. Find your own voice as a writer and write until your brain bleeds songs. Write until it hurts. Write until your swear you never want to write another word. Write until you don't care who likes it.... write until the only thing that matters is whether or not you like what you write. Commit to giving it everything you have and then finding more in your soul you never knew was there and give that too ... never ever give up ... but please do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and quit now if you are not willing to lose everything just to write better and better and better... even when it seems like you are writing worse than ever ... what matters is the writing because writing is how you get better at writing ...

Somehow, figure out how to never lie to yourself about how good your work is and you will be a little bit ahead ... but only a little ... because if you are going to be a great writer, you better be able to lie your ass off ... and be truthful about it!

These are a few things I have discovered ...

It is not an easy job. Why should it be easy? One of the few things I have learned about songwriting is it is the hardest job I have ever laid my hand to ... because I love it so deeply... because I want so badly to write well. I want to be excellent. I do not want to lift the pen until my work is excellent. There are no short cuts. There is only the work ... the work that starts with an idea ... and sometimes the idea that isn't even there until after the work starts! It is confusing. It is maddening. It will mock you with how little it matters all while it is the only thing that seems to matter in the end.

It is an easy job... it is the easiest job I know of ... because I love it so deeply ... why shouldn't it be easy? Sometimes it is almost too easy ... I sit around daydreaming and out pops the song seems to write itself ... as if it is already written and I am only a scribe ... I might get a callous on my finger. My neck might hurt from sitting still too long. At the very worst, someone might not like my song! I poked a "b" string in my thumb the other day while changing strings. It hurt like hell and bled for 30 minutes. These are my job hazards ... what a cushy gig!!! I spend time trying to make up lines that rhyme! The hardest thing about that is over the last few years I have committed to hard rhymes ... you know, where "line" and "time" don't rhyme but "time" and "rhyme" do ... and guess what... my computer can help me rhyme!! They have a website for that ... I hang out with really well read interesting people who are trying to do what I do ... make up a great song! we laugh and joke and alter our states of consciousness ... or not ... and we make up silly songs, fun songs, love songs, social statement songs, redneck songs, pinko commie songs, left songs, right songs, middle of the road songs, country songs, pop songs, rock songs, aaa songs, americana songs, r&b songs... songs songs songs and more songs ... we record them and put them on our own cds or make demonstration versions and pitch them to famous artists who mostly turn them down but when they cut them we make a pretty darn good living!! I watch movies and get ideas... I read books and get ideas... I read a LOT!!!... books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, church signs, quotes, poetry, song lyrics, essays... I read because I am INTERESTED... but even more ... I am in love with words... they make my heart sing. I pour words in so I can pour words out ... I go to concerts and get ideas ... I need the inspiration I get from watching my peers and heroes. I play with my kids and get ideas ... They are honest and I have learned how not to be and I need the reminder of what honesty sounds and feels like! I hang out with interesting people and get ideas ... I love people who are ALIVE!! But mostly I just sit around and wonder about life and love and happiness and sadness and money and relationships and I observe and pay close attention ... and turn those observations into songs. and that's my easy job!

I hate shitty songs. Believe me, I have made up plenty of shitty songs. But every single one of them moved me one breath closer to being a good writer. I have written some songs I think are just awesome works of art ... and then I read a Hank Williams lyric and realize how pitiful my attempts are and how far I have to go ...

If you are not a writer, you will think all the above is somewhat crazy ...

If you are a writer you will know for sure ...

If you are not a writer, lack of money, respect or love will make you "get a real job" and lay down the pen and confess to the foolishness of such a crazy dream ...

If you are a writer you will write and nothing will stop you even if you starve to death alone in an alley trying to scratch some idea into the pavement with your fingernail.

If you are not a writer, you will find an excuse to not write ... there are plenty... and you will find a better way of making a living and you will be just fine ... even happy... and what you don't write will not be missed.

If you are a writer you will still find an excuse to not write ... there are plenty ... you will try to find a better way of making a living and you will not be just fine and you will not be happy and you will be haunted every waking and sleeping moment by what you have not written. And you will be miserable until you write it down... and then write some more ... and some more and some more ...

Why are you reading this? Why aren't you writing?

The second of those two questions is the most important ...

Peace Chuck