Solving Songwriter Envy
Write better songs by channeling your negative emotions into positive results
I was reading through a songwriter FaceBook group, looking for new music to listen to, interesting songwriting conversations and ways to add to the conversations.
I read an interesting statement (not saying which group) that got me thinking about the songwriter that wrote it and the negative mindset behind it…
This is paraphrased, and I don’t remember the entire context, but this is what stuck with me:
“All of us in this songwriting group are all better songwriters than Ed Sheeran”
I’m not judging the person that made this comment! I’ve had similar thoughts… when I see a local show, I’m always jealous… I want to be up on stage, even though I didn’t rehearse with the band and do any work to land the gig.
I figured out how to use these negative feelings to make myself take positive action. But first I had to dig into my own jealousy and negativity to understand these emotions….
What’s Going On Here?
Let’s pull apart this statement … a (possibly) amateur songwriter is telling the internet that he is a better songwriter than a multi-platinum songwriter and performer with 22 Million YouTube Subscribers.
I like some of his songs, others not as much… not surprising because I’m not in his target demographic! Ed Sheeran’s sound may not be for you. Perhaps you find his songs too sentimental or commercial. It doesn’t matter if you love him or hate him… it’s wise to listen, learn what you can and become a better songwriter!
What Does “Better Than” Mean?
- More sophisticated lyrics? Not the most important thing in popular music!
- Better rhymes? Same!
- Deeper lyrics? As long as you don’t go so deep your listener doesn’t get it….
- Emotional connection? Moving your audience is the fastest way to get people liking, listening and buying your music. It’s the “X” factor that everyone wants and the hardest thing to reproduce!
What’s Behind: “We’re better songwriters than…”?
Why are you (or others) tempted to think you are better than someone? Some reasons are:
- Insecurity about your own songwriting or how well your songs are received, or the size of your audience
- Entitlement… an excuse for laziness or avoiding the work: I’m great so I don’t have to do the work to be recognized… I should just get it.
- It’s Not Fair… another excuse, if life isn’t fair it’s not my fault that i’m not as famous as I deserve. Unfortunately… life isn’t fair! But don’t let that stop you from trying.
- Complaining… because it feels good and it’s easier than doing the work necessary for success.
- Pushing Others Down… makes it easier to be better than someone else.
Why You Might Be Thinking Like This:
You want people to listen to your music, to love it and buy it (and love you)!
But these attitudes make it harder:
- Competition… you are focused on others, comparing yourself to others instead of improving yourself
- Forgetting there’s room for everyone… the music business isn’t a closed system. There is space for diversity and different music and everybody wins when we support each other.
- Insecurity… you aren’t confident in your own abilities and songwriting as you should to be
- Over confidence… you aren’t as good as you think you are. The most dangerous people (to themselves) are those who are convinced that everything they do it great
- Grass is Always Greener… it’s easier to imagine how great something else is than to do the work to make it great
- You only see the the positives of others and focus on the negatives of your situation… a negative attitude will blind you to your own positives
- Only Knowing Part of the Story… you don’t see all of the hard work behind the scene. There are countless stories of sudden success, but the years of work for the “instant success” isn’t in the popular short version of the story. You don’t know the entire story: what they have done to build an audience, create a buzz and the work that took to get to where they are.…
It comes down to:
Wanting the world to be different from the way it is… You have expectations that aren’t real… or even grounded in reality as everyone else knows it (you aren’t being realistic, and you’re complaining that the world isn’t the way you want it)
What Really Matters:
Does your music reach people or not?
Success in music isn’t about who is the best, but who is playing right now… are you playing music or playing games?
Why Should I Be Positive?
- Nobody likes to be around negative people (except other negative people who are just going to drag you down!)
- Negative people are rarely successful and rarely stay successful if they accidentally become successful
- People like positive attitudes and positive action in others…
- Being positive is easier than negative once you get some practice with it!
How to Turn Negativity into Positivity
Action Steps: Recognize It
Recognize negative thinking when you are doing it… writing this down helps!
- Admit your insecurities… just admit it to yourself.
- Figure out where your negativity is coming from…
- The first three answers are usually a cover for something deeper, keep digging
- What are you really afraid of ?
- What are you really mad about? Who are you really mad at?
- Who does your negativity sound like? Is it someone else’s voice from your past?
- What would it be like if you were able to be positive about the situation?
For help recognizing negativity: Make Songwriting Easier
Action Steps: Feel It
- Empathy is understanding how others feel. Be aware of others, of their experiences and their pain and their joy.
- Put yourself in their situation, how would you appear to them?
- What would you sound like to them?
- Realize it’s not about you… people are concerned with themselves, it’s not personal
- Do something for someone else instead of asking for something for yourself… concern yourself with someone else
Actions Steps: How To Use Your Negative Emotions for Good!
When you find yourself thinking or speaking negatively:
- Choose to do something about the situation or problem.
- What is one thing you could do to improve it?
- Write it down…
- Do it!
- What else could you do about it?
- Do it!
For more read: Manage Self Doubt to Write Better Songs
Action Step: Find a positive way to frame it…
- I will learn to write songs that reach as many people as Ed Sheeran does.
- I will stop being an introverted couch potato and go hear more live shows
- I will learn to get past my own resistance and
- I will start co-writing with other songwriters
- I will write more songs
- I will finish more of my songs
- I will write better songs, that move people
- I will record those songs and release them
- I will ….
For help learning to write songs every day
Stop publishing negativity…
- don’t speak it
- don’t post it
- don’t do it
- and stop writing it into your songs!
My personal goal in songwriting is to find the positive angle or perspective. My songs aren’t allowed to complain, no whining permitted. Instead of writing about being stuck, I write about how to get myself (or my audience unstuck). I write the version of me that I want to become!
Example: Maybe It’s You… unrecorded, 2017
Ever wonder why your friends don’t come around
Why no one ever calls you back?
Could it be your trashy attitude or your dirty looks?
People aren’t as dumb as you say….
What you need to do is to learn to doubt yourself:
Maybe it’s you? Maybe it’s you.
Could have been you, or maybe it’s you?
There’s one thing to consider, there’s one thing we both know
It was you. It was you!
about guilt riddled addiction. It’s a dark one about the inner turmoil of addiction, but instead of blaming or complaining the lyrics accept responsibility for the problem even when there doesn’t seem to be a way out.
Negative emotions are only harmful when you let them rule you or if you stay stuck!
When all else fails, write a song about it… if it helps you get unstuck it’s worth the time, even if you don’t ever record it!
In case you haven’t heard Ed Sheeran….
Sing, Ed Sheeran: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlYcUqEPN58
Ed Sheeran’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/EdSheeran
Ed Sheeran on Carpool Karaoke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckdsJ-LaCvM