Accidental Songwriting Lessons
21 songwriting lessons I learned from a car accident
Mistakes happen, life gets in the way of your plans. It’s not the problems you face but what you learn from them that makes you stronger!
I was in a car accident yesterday, a low speed fender bender… everyone is fine, no injuries except to the vehicles… doesn’t sound like a situation for songwriting lessons, but you can learn from any experience if you listen for the lessons!
I was about to turn left across 2 lanes of traffic, there was a line of cars waiting behind me that couldn’t get past and they were backed up into the intersection behind me… I felt a little uneasy and briefly thought to drive on, turn around at a safer spot and come back so I could take an easier right turn.
An oncoming car stopped, leaving me enough space to cross, and the driver waved me through… as I turned a pickup truck in the far lane started to back up in the middle of the road, leaving me with a quick decision… stop or floor it into a parking lot. I stopped and laid on the horn but… crunch, his rear bumper crunched into the front left quarter panel of my car…. After we pulled into the parking lot I was trying to get into and exchanged insurance information, he told me he was backing up to let someone into his lane in front of him… but he forgot to look behind his truck first.
Life is full of lessons, when you are open to them.
- This incident doesn’t directly have anything to do with songwriting, but it would be a terrible waste not to learn something and share it with you!
- Sure problems and life challenges can be bad, especially if you bring a negative attitude to deal with them.
- Mistakes are fine when you learn from them… especially mistakes that other people make. It saves you some trouble and the effort of cleaning up after them.
These are my songwriting lessons from the accident…
The Songwriting Lessons are in bold face, interwoven between the many Life Lessons:
1. Count your blessings
- Nobody was hurt
- I learned many things (see below)
- I have excellent insurance
- Big picture, this is an inconvenience that will cost me a little time
- I wrote this article (in record time) about this, and have a few future song ideas too!
2. It’s not (always) your fault
- Things can go wrong or off plan that have nothing to do with you
- Don’t blame yourself for what you can’t control
- Sometimes it is your fault… own up to it, learn and move on, instead of dwelling on it!
- I write about growing from mistakes instead of dwelling on them… this helps me do the same in my life
3. It takes longer to fix a mistake than make one
- Cleaning up a mess usually takes longer than making it… 30 seconds of driving led to 20 minute phone call with insurance, 45 minutes for the repair estimate, driving back for the repairs later, a few days in a rental car, etc….
- Don’t leave a mess, clean it up
- Fix your lyrics and songs that need it… don’t leave weak songs on their own
4. Sometimes bad things happen
- Roll with it, instead of getting stuck or blaming
- Do something positive, write a song about it (or an article)
5. Trust your intuition
- I was uneasy just before it happened. I knew something was wrong, but not what, until it happened
- Western society teaches us to trust logic and proof, often ignoring what we feel or believe unless it can be explained
- You can know something without understanding or being able to explain why you know it… doesn’t make it less true!
- Intuition is a valuable tool, but you have to relearn how to listen!
- When your song or a line or a lyric feels wrong, it probably is… change it!
- Read more about fixing weak lyrics: 3 Avoidable Lyric Mistakes
6. Sometimes it’s only obvious afterwards
- Hindsight is great, too bad it doesn’t work until later!
- You have to go through problems to learn from them
- Don’t get frustrated with a mistake or accident (unless you keep repeating it)
- Don’t get upset with yourself or continue to relive it… move on!
- Write songs about moving on, instead of songs about being stuck.
7. Insurance is always a good idea
- Nobody wants to spend money they don’t have to, but peace of mind is priceless
- You have to plan ahead, can’t buy insurance after the fact
- Minimize the risks you take, and have a backup plan because there are always things that are out of your control
- Buy insurance for your musical instruments (most household and homeowner’s insurance policies don’t include musical instruments that are used professionally… check with your insurance agent or broker)
8. Avoid dangerous situations
- You can minimize trouble by avoiding situations that are unsafe.
- If it feels wrong, it usually is… listen to your intuition instead of convincing yourself to do dumb things
- Trouble can find you, no point in looking for it… if you have a negative attitude it will find you faster!
- Write songs about doing dumb things, instead of doing them….
9. Pay attention to details
- Life is in the details, the little things are important, don’t ignore them
- Your intuition pays attention to details you aren’t conscious of… another reason to listen to and follow your intuition
- Songs are built on universal details… sensual imagery and details put your audience in the world you create with your song
10. Be aware of your surroundings
- Be in the moment, live in the present… don’t live in a distracted state of yearning for yesterday or wishing for tomorrow
- Song ideas are all around you, look and listen for them.
- Read What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write
11. Watch behind you
- Look in the direction you’re going, especially when it’s backwards!
- Don’t live in the past, but you can write about past experiences, especially if it helps get you unstuck from your past
- Write for the future, write where you want to go
12. Do the right thing
- Don’t cut corners, do it right the first time
- Don’t pick the easy thing only because it’s easier
- Don’t try to cheat the system, don’t cheat people, don’t be a jerk.
- Act like a professional, even when nobody’s watching
13. Own up to your mistakes
- Admit them, hiding or covering up only makes it worse
- People hate to deal with mistake hiders, and excuse makers and blamers, don’t make people hate you
- The music business is smaller than you think, a bad reputation will hurt your career without you even knowing about it because no one will tell you about your bad reputation, they will ignore you instead!
14. Be polite, especially when you’re under stress
- I could have got out of my car in an angry state… I could have gotten upset when the other driver mentioned that he knew a body shop guy so we didn’t have to go through insurance… but that would have created a tense situation
- I took 15 seconds and chilled, then got out and was extremely polite… and everything went smoothly
- Be polite and respectful to your audience, online and in person
- Be professional at all times, don’t complain, sound negative or frustrated on stage… ever! Deal with your frustration or band drama in private, later….
15. Stay calm during and after stressful situations
- Breathe, breathe, breathe… then act
- Freaking out never solved anything
- Writing when you are stressed out is usually a waste of time… take a break or take the day off and do something that relieves stress
16. Being courteous can inconvenience someone else
- This is fine if the inconvenience is on you. I will often tell parents of young children to go ahead of me in lineups…
- Be aware of the possibility that your courtesy could impact on somebody else (look behind you)
- This is a rare problem, but it is the reason I am writing this article.
17. Assumptions can lead to trouble
- I assumed that it was clear to go… oops!
- I avoid assuming my songs are awesome until I test them on an audience (I usually test them several times before an audience hears them… I need a fresh perspective after working on them in isolation)
- Songwriting Cycle: Solutions includes a details about testing your songs
18. You have to make some assumptions
- If you make a few assumptions you would be paralyzed and never leave your home…
- The trick is knowing which assumptions are right and recognizing which are false!
- Assume you have a great song when you love it
- Assume that your audience will love your great song, and spread the word!
- Get More Social Love for your Songs to get your songs to the people
19. Take a minute when you need it
- I took a few minutes before trying to drive, to be sure I was safe to drive.
- You can burn yourself out without rest… go to sleep when you’re tired.
- There is no prize for being the hardest worker, the prizes are for best results.
- Take a break when you need it… step away from songwriting for 5 minutes or a day when you need to, and come back ready for more
- Focus Your Songwriting Super Powers for better results from your songwriting sessions
20. Short Cuts aren’t always shorter
- Had I known, I could have driven on, found a safer way across traffic and taken another way to get where I was going
- Had I known, I could have gone the long way around the block and avoided the situation
- You don’t always know in advance… but you can plan for possible problems and be ready with a solution
- Don’t expect instant fame and glory… do the work and be patient. Read: Why Nobody Listens to Your Songs
- Share your songs, it takes time and patience to make your impact on the world!
21. Learn from your mistakes
- When things go wrong, learn how to avoid repeating it
- Observe patterns, when things work well double up… if it isn’t working, change course
- Break unhealthy patterns when you notice them, don’t ignore it or complain about it, do something positive
- If you write a bad or boring song, finish it then learn from it! What went well? What didn’t work?
- Write a better song next time…. Learn how to Create Your Songwriting Practice Routine
The Big Takeaway:
There are lessons in everyday life…
- Be aware and find the positive, even in a bad situation. They won’t all directly apply to your music or your songwriting, but listen to hear the lessons that do.
Leave a comment:
What “problems” have you encountered and what songwriting lessons did you learn?