Have you ever backed out at the last moment?
Even when you knew you should do it anyway?
It might be something small, like sitting down to write songs, but you didn’t.
You’re about to contact another songwriter to ask if they want to co-write a song, but you didn’t.
You’re thinking of finding or meeting new musicians to start a band, but you didn’t.
You’re almost done that new song and you could finish it, but you didn’t.
You were almost done with that video of your latest song and you’re about to publish it on YouTube, but you didn’t.
There’s a moment just before you spring into action, when doubt creeps in… it feels a little different for most people but usually you start thinking about why you shouldn’t or don’t want to do it followed by some great reasons why it would be better to try later (but you don’t!)
Some of those “great” reasons might be:
- Maybe you don’t have a great song idea right now.
- Maybe that songwriter is too busy to work with you right now.
- Maybe those musicians aren’t strong enough and it will be a frustrating waste of time.
- Maybe the song won’t be as good as you think.
- Maybe the video needs a little more editing or you should really record it again to get a better take.
Maybe those excuses are hiding something else…
Fear? Do It Anyway
It’s emotional, so logic has its limits when you’re dealing with it.
The sensations of stress make you feel uncomfortable. To make the uncomfortable thoughts that create the uncomfortable sensations you avoid the problem.
You’re scared. You avoid the situation and find excuses to rationalize it so that it’s okay that you’re avoiding it.
These excuses can seem so great that you actually fool yourself into thinking you’re avoiding behaviours are in your best interest!
The Source of Fear
Where does fear come from?
Why is being embarrassed more terrifying than being physically hurt?
So many questions!
Many fears are a result of previous negative experiences. The offhand comment about your singing as a teenager that still stings when you remember it. The one time you tried something and failed publically. The first time you tried and it didn’t work. The song you posted that got no views.
Knowing where a fear originated is the first step in conquering it…
Physical Symptoms of Fear
Tightness in your chest. It’s hard to breathe. You can’t get enough oxygen, you need something you can’t have. It makes you edgy until it grows to panic. You want to move or walk away… or run, it doesn’t matter which direction
Mental Symptoms of Fear
Pay attention to your rational excuses… the reasons you’re telling yourself why you shouldn’t do it.
Ask why and dig into these excuses!
Ask Why? (5 times)
The first excuse isn’t always the real excuse… in fact the first four excuses are probably lies that sound good. If you keep digging eventually you might get to the actual truth beneath the excuses. Be prepared to reject numerous excuses before you reach the heart of the matter.
To Publish or Not Publish?
Because this is a songwriting article and one of the great hang ups some songwriters experience is fear of publishing… being afraid to post a song or a video of themselves performing a song. For the rest of this article, I’ll be talking about publishing (sharing) songs, but this advice applies to anything you’re avoiding.
Fighting Fear with Logic
The first solution that most people think of is using logic to rationally fight the symptoms of fear. Because fear is emotional and emotions have a stronger effect on human behaviour than rational thought… this doesn’t always work.
What Can’t Happen If I Don’t Do It?
If you went ahead and published that song what could happen? Now turn the question around: if I don’t put that song out in the world… what can’t happen?
How will giving in to this fear or avoiding this action (that you honestly know you should be doing) prevent the good things that might follow from it?
What Could Happen If I Do It?
Write down all the good possibilities that might happen to you if you post that song or that video, or take that gig you might not be totally ready for?
What positive things could happen?
What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?
This usually what people focus on when they’re trying to justify an avoidance situation. When you dig into this question it’s common to find that many of the fears that are lurking aren’t really as realistic as you would expect. Sometimes seeing them on paper makes them easier to dismiss so you can get on with your work.
Fighting Fear with Emotions
Because fear is emotional, it’s usually more effective to use emotions to conquer it.
Here are some starting points:
All Feedback Is Positive
If you pay attention to the details. Sure, there are trolls but some of the things they say (usually) have a kernel of truth buried in them if you know how to listen for it.
Feedback isn’t good or bad (regardless of how you feel about it), the question is what you do with it. If you find a way to improve your songwriting craft or your performance or your next attempt at anything… it’s positive feedback.
For ideas to deal with negative feedback and comments, try: Using Songwriting Criticism Constructively, and Dealing With Negativity
Every Song is an Experiment
Some experiments are more successful than others. Perfection isn’t a realistic goal. There is no such thing as a perfect song, stop trying to write it. Write the best song you can right now.
Another way to think about it, is every time you try something you might succeed… or not. But you’ll learn from it if you’re paying attention!
To make an ever broader statement… every day is an experiment!
If you hear yourself saying things like: “I can’t because…” or “If I had…” this article will make a big difference… Songwriting Problems are Opportunities
As a songwriter and as a person, your goal should be to improve yourself. Measure yourself against your past, instead of against others.
Are you pushing yourself to improve or are you making things more difficult for yourself?
Are you experimenting with new techniques or using the same safe ones?
Are you trying to get better or wasting your time comparing yourself to others?
Learn why you aren’t improving as fast as you could: Learning is Uncomfortable
Check Your Self-Talk
What you think affects how you feel. Do you ever think to yourself in ways you’d never speak to a friend out loud? You know the negative things that you say to yourself often enough that you start to believe them?
For techniques to identify and stop negative self talk, read: Make Songwriting Easier
There are fears that are based in reality, but how you’re thinking about them will affect what you choose to do about them. Sometimes you’re making things harder by being so hard on yourself.
Instead of wondering if you song is “good enough” ask if it is “as good as I can make it right now.”
Instead of worrying about whether “everyone will love it” ask yourself if you love it or should you continue to try to improve it.
Don’t feel like you need to create something for everyone, write a song for your ideal audience. Accept that some people won’t like it… you don’t like every song!
Find out what you could accomplish if you weren’t afraid: Fearless Songwriting
1. Notice your avoidance patterns… when do you back down? Take 5 minutes and write a list of the things “you don’t do, but probably should do.”
2. Pick a few from your list and write down the things you tell yourself to justify avoiding them!
2. Why? 5 Times… ask yourself why until you’re tired of it. Then ask why again!
3. Do it anyway… life is short, go for it!