Transforming Musicians into Songwriters

5 Destructive Songwriting Myths

Why make songwriting more difficult? Learn to recognize and solve these false and destructive songwriting myths!
5 Destructive Songwriting Myths That Make Songwriting Harder than it really needs to be

Table of Contents

Why make songwriting more difficult? Instead learn to recognize and solve these false and destructive songwriting myths!

Songwriting is more complicated than most people think, especially when you’re first starting out. It can be hard enough without believing any of these false and destructive songwriting myths.

After the video lesson there are more details and depth about each myth and how to overcome them and get back on track.

Songwriting Myth #1: Songwriting Should Be Easy Myth

Popular songs appear to be relatively simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to write.

It’s easier to imagine a completed song than to follow through on all the steps to write the lyrics, melodies, chord progressions and decisions about the arrangement. There’s also a common tendency to underestimate how long a project will take to complete. 

Nothing New Happens in your Comfort Zone, Border Collie sleeping, songwriting meme,songwriting advice that makes sense

Solving the Songwriting Should Be Easy Myth 

Creativity takes effort. When you’re writing songs and making choices and decisions while you’re writing takes mental energy. That’s why most people find it easier to write early in the day, when they are feeling fresh and rested. 

It can also be a reason you might feel like avoiding your songwriting sessions. It’s easier to sit on the coach than to spend the mental energy it takes to make creative decisions.

There are scientific studies that explore the result of Decision Fatigue… the difficulty that people have making decisions when they are feeling tired or mentally depleted.

Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brain

Decision Fatigue (wikipedia)

Songwriting Myth #2: Instant Success Myth

Build it and they will come… all you have to do is create something great, people will find it and they will pay you enormous amounts of money. Wishful thinking at it’s best.

The instant success myth has several sub-myths:

The Instant Song Myth

We’ve all heard or read stories of songs that were written in a quick burst of creative energy in one sitting. Hit songs that were written in under an hour, or written after a dream. They are appealing and that’s why they get picked up in the press. That’s how we want the world to be!

But usually there’s a second part to the story that gets left out because it isn’t as exciting… it blows the story apart. Usually the songwriter is already an accomplished writer with a large catalogue of successful songs. Or the artist was on the road performing night after night and the songwriting inspiration from three gigs ago was floating through their subconscious on a slow boil until it bubbled up in a dream. Or the riff came in a dream or during a jam session but the actual writing of the lyrics and fleshing out of the song might have taken several days or a group effort from the band. 

I wrote a verse to a song in under a minute once. I was working on a song over several days and sat down to brainstorm. The lyrics flowed out as fast as I could write them. When I was done I changed three or four words. Writing about a song subject for several days primed me with ideas and imagery that I released in a quick rush of creativity.

The second part of the story is: it took me three days struggling to fit the verse into the songI finally realized it had a different tone and was actually a different song. Then it took me a few more days to finish a chorus, a second verse and write the music for it. So the first verse took 2 minutes and the rest of the song took over a week.


The Instant Hit Song Myth

Only knowing half of the story contributes to the myth of the Instant Hit. It’s part of the fear that many beginner songwriters face when they are afraid to post their lyrics or songs online because someone could steal it, make it a hit and the writer would miss out on the tremendous royalties. 

We don’t know (or care) that music is a cooperative activity, from groups of musicians, to teams working at publishing companies and music promoters. A song rarely comes out of nowhere to land in the charts. Even Old Town Road, the infamous 2019 Rap/Country Hit has a backstory… you have to dig to learn that Lil Nas X leveraged a huge social media following to start the initial momentum that pushed the song to become a hit. 

The Untold Truth of Old Town Road

Lil Nas X bought ‘Old Town Road’ beat for $30: The story and the movement behind the record-breaking hit’s making

The Instant Songwriting Career Myth

Write a great hit song and you get to retire to a life of ease. It’s a lovely day dream, but it won’t help you finish that stuck song you’ve been fighting with, and like the other myths here, it leads to unrealistic expectations.

It takes many songs to become a solid songwriter. 

The Overnight Success Myth

There are countless bands that explode on the scene, suddenly they seem to be everywhere. Except for an in depth biography, the story of the struggle to fame only gets a paragraph. The real story where they spent years playing dive bars, building their playing skills and stage act, writing halfway good songs that slowly got better, building a network and a tribe before they hit a tipping point and they became Sudden-Famous. The story loses it’s glamour when you add all the dirty details.

Border collie holding a giant stick "Sometimes songwriting feels like you bit off more than you can chew"

Solving the Instant Success Myth

  • Get the whole story! 
  • Recognize when you’re underestimating the effort you need to put in and the time it takes to get to your goals. 
  • Be gentle with yourself when you realize you fell for it again and your expectations were unrealistic. 
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Do what you can right now and be proud of what you’ve already accomplished!

Songwriting Myth #3: Work Harder Songwriting Myth

There’s a social myth, especially in North America, that if you work hard you automatically become successful. It sounds good, but if you’re working hard on the wrong things this belief breaks down.

I believe it’s largely a result of the American Protestant Work Ethic… hard work is good, and working harder is better. It made sense in a rural society where slacking off usually led to starvation. In contemporary society there are too many variables to depend solely on effort to become successful. There’s too much competition and work isn’t enough. You have to do more to stand out and achieve success.

Protestant Work Ethic

In songwriting, the myth causes you to believe you have to do everything yourself. You don’t have to write alone, find co-writers with complementary skill sets. You don’t have to sing every song you write, find a vocalist that can take your song to the next level. You can save up for a session in a professional studio instead of learning how to record everything in your home studio. Don’t try to do everything yourself…

Solving the Work Harder Myth

The solution is to work smarter, not harder. Do what has the most impact!

Stop messing around endlessly on social media building a following of people that don’t listen to the few songs you manage to post. 

Go live an interesting life, then make the time to write songs about it!

Stop fighting to hit the high notes and get some vocal lessons. 

Instead of trying to figure out songwriting by watching free YouTube songwriting tips videos, invest in an online songwriting course!

Consistency is more important than hard work. Show up every day and get something done. Small victories add up to big victories over time.

Daily Songwriting

Learn to write consistently, by building a solid songwriting habit. Know what you’re going to write before you sit down, drop into the writing flow instantly and find the joy in daily songwriting. Click below and enter your email address so I can send it to you…

Songwriting Myth #4: The Perfect Song Myth

Perfection is an unattainable goal. It’s a trap. Don’t set yourself up for failure!

Remember that “perfect” summer song from last year. When you hear it now you might feel a little nostalgic for the summer sunshine and the friends you were with last summer, but it’s lost its luster because that time has passed. Even if you could write a “perfect” song, it would be fleeting and doesn’t last.

You wrote a dog song should I be impressed, cat's angry face, songwriting meme

Solving the Perfect Song Myth

With your songwriting this could stifle your ideas as you’re writing. At one point early in my songwriting career, I started thinking my lyric ideas weren’t very good (many weren’t), as I was writing them down, I think “that isn’t very good.” I started self-editing while I was writing. I’d stop an idea halfway through a line. For a few weeks I couldn’t write a complete thought. 

Once I realized what I was doing, I started free writing (Brainstorming – click to learn how) putting every idea I could down on paper. Then I chose the best ideas, polished them and started organizing them into a song.

When you mix the Perfect Song Myth with the Instant Success Myth you start trying to write the final copy of a song first. Trying to start at the first line and continue sequentially through the song to the final line. If you run into a snag or can’t finish a line… chances are that song will wind up in the garbage because “it’s a broken song that will never work.”

Instead write a draft. Then edit and improve it. Write and edit some more for the next draft and the next, next draft until you have a great song.

Songwriting Myth #5: Songwriting is Intuitive Myth

This is often called “songwriting from the heart” or “songwriting is instinctive”

If this was true you wouldn’t be able to learn songwriting. Either you’re born with the natural talent or you aren’t. You’re born to be a songwriter or you’ll never be one.

If you truly believed that you wouldn’t be reading this right now because this article couldn’t make a difference to your songwriting.

This also creates a dangerous excuse… “I’m not good enough!” that lets you off the hook. It leads to  “He’s a natural I can never be that good, so I don’t have to do the work to become great.” or “She was born with ‘it’ so I can’t compete with that.” 

They put in hours over several years with consistent effort to become great. If you buy into the intuitive myth then you demean their countless hours of effort and let you avoid putting in the time and energy to do it too.

What do you mean I need to know songwriting stuff to write songs, white and orange cat crying out, songwriting meme

Solving the Songwriting is Intuitive Myth

Songwriting is a collection of skills you can learn and improve.

Songwriting has intuitive aspects. When I write, I let go and get every idea I can down on paper. Then I deliberately and consciously start editing, choosing the best ideas. Then I intuitively write more about those ideas, then consciously start to edit again. I bounce back and forth between both states countless times during a songwriting session. 

You make many songwriting decisions instinctively, using your musical intuition to make choices at a subconscious level so you can’t always explain why you made a particular decision. It’s a combination of your musical taste and your musical training.

You can also make conscious and deliberate choices, like following a songwriting process that you’ve thought through to get a song written as efficiently as possible. You can slow yourself down and deliberately edit. You can choose to generate a list of keywords or synonyms before you dive into a lyric writing session. I love to write a quick list of possible rhyme words. My latest personal rule is to find 5-10 rhyme words every rhyme, so I don’t choose the most obvious or predictable rhyme pairs.

You can choose a songwriting exercise to improve a skill you’ve identified to develop.

Bonus Songwriting Myth: Songwriter’s Block

The myth of songwriter’s block… while you can block your songwriting, “songwriter’s block” isn’t a useful phrase. It usually covers up the actual reasons for the problem. Learn how to destroy this myth in your mind forever…

Songwriting Myth Summary

And the songwriting truths they hide…

  • Songwriting Should Be Easy Myth – Songwriting Takes Effort
  • Instant Success Songwriting Myth – Songwriting Takes Time
  • The Work Harder Songwriting Myth – Work Smarter, Not Harder
  • The Perfect Song Myth – Perfection is Unattainable, Write What You Can
  • Songwriting is Intuitive Myth – Songwriting Has Intuitive and Deliberate Aspects, Find a Balance

Leave a comment to help other songwriters:

What Songwriting Myths have you believed and overcome?

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.

Leave a comment to help other songwriters...

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