I’m going to give you a bit of counter intuitive advice here that will probably sound like I’ve lost my mind at first.
You see, I’m going to advise all of you musicians and songwriters to lower your standards.
Makes no sense does it! Well, bear with me and I’ll share where I’m coming from.
One of the things that stops us creating is the fear that comes from perfectionism. I’m a perfectionist. A rebellious one – but a perfectionist nonetheless. Many of us are.
It gives us high standards which is a good thing in terms of how much we care about the quality of everything we produce. But it also gives us the fear of not attaining those standards.
The result of that fear is that we create less. Yet what we really need to do in order to improve our output is to create more.
After all, the 80/20 rule says that a small amount of your efforts will give you the bulk of your big wins.
So if you want to write a really great song, chances are that you’re gonna have to write 5 songs. If you want to write a really great 10 track album where every song is a winner, you’ll likely have to write 50 songs!
And how are we going to have that level of output if we are censoring our creativity rather than letting it loose.
Think of Prince for instance. He’s written over a thousand songs. Only 40 of them made the Top 20. It’s a terrible ratio on the fact of it. But it proves my point. Over 960 of his songs didn’t make it. And that’s okay.
I read an interview in the Musicians Union magazine recently. It was with the legendary British songwriter Tom Robinson.
Here’s what he had to say on it:
“The key to quality is quantity. Unless you’re prepared to lower your standards and write absolute rubbish, but lots of it, you will never allow yourself to get to the nuggets.”
You see, the point is to create. And to create frequently. It’s better to wake up and create something mediocre than create nothing for fear of it being short of perfect.
And guess what – the more you create, the better you’ll get at creating. It’s that 10,000 hours rule that Malcolm Gladwell talks about. We become experts after 10,000 hours of doing something.
The closer we get to that 10,000 hours, the better we will be.
So creating prolifically doesn’t just give you more nuggets to mine, it gets you better at the whole job of creation too. And that means that you’ll improve your strike rate.
Think of the Motown songwriters who would literally clock in to work each day and write song after song after song. Wasn’t it inevitable that they’d produce brilliance with that level of output, and that level of commitment to their craft?
Back to Tom Robinson: “If you look at all the truly monumentally successful songwriters they have all been stupidly prolific. The Beatles used to record, release and promote two albums a year at their height. Elton John – two albums a year.”
We are creators. Songwriters, musicians, singers. Our job is to create prolifically.
Whatever gets in the way of that has to be overcome. One of the biggest barriers is perfection. So if lowering our standards is what it takes to create more, why not try that on for size and see how you get on.