Understanding The Reasons Why You Write Songs
“What’s your why?” This question came at me in several different situations over the past two weeks. I’ve learned to listen when synchronicity calls, so I’m sharing the question with you:
Why do you write songs?
Most songwriters have several why’s… what are yours?
In this article you’ll learn why understanding your”songwriting why” is important. You’ll:
- Identify several of your songwriting why’s and
- Choose which are most important to you.
- Understand the main themes underlying most songwriting why’s, and
- Know what’s truly motivating your songwriting.
- Be better able to choose and achieve your songwriting goals.
Why Your Songwriting Why Is Important
Understanding why you write will focus your effort towards your goals.
When you know your why you know your purpose… you know where you’re going. Your “what” will usually be obvious. It’s easier to figure out your goals and the steps to achieve them.
This video “Know Your Why” by Michael Jr. explains it with a musical example.
Figuring Out Your Songwriting Why
Sit still and ask yourself, why?
Why do I want to write songs?
Ask why at least five times… keep digging. Write down your ideas. The first three answers are usually superficial. It usually takes deep questioning to get to the fundamental truths.
Before you continue reading this article, write down at least 10 why’s, even the less important or obscure reasons.
Types of Songwriting Why
These are the main themes of songwriting why. I’ve written the descriptions in the first person to help you think about them, to make it easier for you to decide if they resonate with you.
Some why’s fit into more than one category. None are better or more valid than others. You likely have several why’s in different categories. Once you’ve decided on your songwriting why’s, consider which are the most important to you and your songwriting career so you can focus on which songwriting goals to work towards achieving:
- Figure out your why’s… write them down!
- Choose your most important why’s
- Choose your short, medium and long range goals based on your why’s
Songwriting why’s fit on a spectrum between altruistic and self-focused.
For example: I have a message I want to share with the world is altruistic if you want to help others feel better while listening to your songs or it could be self-focused if your priority it to share your music to make money. Making money isn’t always self-focused, there is an altruistic element when you use your income to create more music or to pay for marketing to spread your message to a bigger audience.
Self-focused reasons ensure that you personally get something from your songwriting.
Altruistic reasons will give others a reason to support your songwriting career.
Note: After outlining this article, I posted the why question in a few FaceBook groups. I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss any important songwriting why’s. The description statements are a mix of my ideas and paraphrased statements of several songwriters who responded.
Songwriting Why: Self-Expression & Creativity
It’s important to express yourself with music. I have lyrics with a message or stories to tell. Some stories are personal invention, others are my impressions from the real life stories of others.
- I think therefore I write songs.
- I’m addicted to songwriting… I get twitchy and nervous when I don’t write regularly.
- I hear ideas, fragments of lyrics and melody. I have to finish the song so they don’t drive me crazy.
- It’s a productive habit that gives me a sense of purpose and makes me feel complete.
- It’s an addiction, I have to write songs
Songwriting Why: Self Discovery
Creative exploration teaches us about ourselves. What we feel, believe and think about the subject of our art.
- I learn about myself while I write. A song is a voyage of discovery… I understand more about myself and how I feel about the stories, situations and characters I write about.
- My songs are snapshots of my life while I was writing them. When you listen to them, you learn how I thought and felt.
- You hear “me” in my songs… my life is in my songs.
- I can say things through songwriting that I can’t say any other way.
- When I need to think something through… I start writing to figure it out. I learn something even if it doesn’t become a finished song.
Songwriting Why: Self Therapy
Songwriters express emotions through their writing. The dark and difficult emotions can be articulated safely. This catharsis can help heal the writer and the audience.
- I release my emotions and smash emotional blocks with my songwriting.
- Songwriting is cheaper than therapy.
- I say things in my songs that I can’t express any other way.
- Songwriting lets me release emotions so they don’t consume me.
- I release my inner demons, they help me write and then I don’t have to fight them today.
- I healed myself through my songs.
Read how songwriter Shirley Jackson uses her songwriting as personal therapy…
“Songwriting is a way to get what is eating yourself up on the inside out on the outside.”
Songwriting Why: Songwriting Is Fun
When it’s done well, songwriting is fun. It’s a joyful way to create and to feel a sense of accomplishment when a song is completed.
- Creativity makes me feel complete… I don’t know what I’d do without it
- I get in the zone and lose track of time while I write.
- I find joy while writing.
- I’m in love with the process of creating.
- Nothing feels better than finishing a song.
Learn how to turn off your inner editor and release songwriting blocks so you can make songwriting more fun…
Brainstorming: How to Create More Songwriting Ideas Than You Need
Songwriting Why: Listen To Me
I write to be heard! Songwriting Fame: it could be a self-focused desire to be known and remembered for your songwriting, or a more altruistic wish to share your message or help others through their pain.
- I want to connect with people through music. I can touch their emotions and change their lives.
- I have a message you want to share. Stories I want others to hear.
- I want to create the soundtrack to people’s lives. When they hear my song, I want them to remember old times, good times with my fun songs and getting over the pain with my songs of loss.
- I’m unique, I want to write and perform my own material. Then nobody else can be me.
- I want to be remembered for my songs, long after I’m gone.
- I want to be famous, I want people to know who I am.
- My songs will change the world for the better.
- I want to connect people, show them it’s okay and make them feel better.
- Nothing feels better than sharing my music from the stage.
Learn how to spread your music and get More Social Love For Your Songs
Songwriting Why: Songwriting Is A Business
Artists of all types struggle with charging money for their art. There’s a common argument that “selling out” or “selling” your art reduces its intrinsic value because it’s no longer pure. A counter argument is artistic work should be fairly compensated just as any other professional work.
Either way you see it, songwriters have to pay their bills like everyone else. Making money from songwriting royalties allows songwriters to devote their time to writing even more songs.
- I want to write and perform my own songs so I have another income stream to support my family.
- I have a message I need to share, I want to invest my royalties so I can share it with more people.
- My dream job is writing everyday for a music publisher.
- I’m starting my own publishing company so I can help other songwriters get their songs to the artists who can share them with the world.
Songwriting Why: Conclusions
Your songwriting why’s are personal. One why isn’t any “better” than another. What’s important is that you’re honest with yourself, so you can focus on getting where you want to go with your writing. Figure out your most important why’s and whether you are focusing on yourself or others.
Now, review your songwriting goals for this month, this year and your bucket list goals.
- Which goals are more important in light of your songwriting why’s?
- Which goals should be adjusted or abandoned?
- What changes do you need to make in your long term strategies?