A friend of mine thanked me recently. He said “that song I just played up there, that’s down to you.”
I was puzzled. So he explained that last year while we were rehearsing a show, he mentioned a song that he had only half written and sought my advice.
It’s that advice that resulted in the song he had just sung, as well as many others since.
I’d forgotten until he reminded me. Then I felt a little shame faced. I realised I wasn’t being so disciplined at following my own advice myself.
I’ve since incorporated it into my creative life and it’s paying big dividends, so I really wanted to share it with you.
Step 1: Just Finish It
My advice to my friend was essentially three words. I looked up from my guitar and I said “just finish it.”
Not overly profound on the face of it I know. But look closer at it and think of your own songwriting and creativity generally.
If you’re like me, you’ll have creations that are only half finished. Maybe they get hard to bring into life and so you left them alone for a while. They’ll get born another day, you think. Yet they never are.
I didn’t want that to happen to my friend’s song. I could see it really meant a lot to him. I felt he needed to finish it while that meaning was still alive in him.
So I told him “just finish it.”
Ever since he reminded me of that day, I have found myself using that advice myself, and it has really helped my songwriting. I’ve written songs that I know would never have been created without those three words.
As long as there is any kind of beginning, I hear “just finish it”, and it becomes my job to do just that.
It might be a line. It might be a chorus. It might just be an idea or a phrase.
But a start is a start, so once that start is made – just finish it.
A song that is a certainty for my next album happened because I was strumming and sang out one line. I then went to put down my guitar, when I heard those three little words.
So I committed to the rest of the song, even before I understood myself what the song was really about.
It has become one of the songs I’m most proud of, and audiences love it. Without my commitment to just finish it, it wouldn’t even exist.
Step 2: Make A Start
If any start means you have to just finish it, so it follows that if I make more starts, I’ll get even more songs.
Thoughts occur lots. As I walk in the street, as I shower, as I cook in my kitchen. Whenever I get some free head space to let my mind wonder I find that thoughts pass into my mind.
Typically, these thoughts and ideas don’t get captured.
But now I consciously turn those thoughts into threads that can be pulled on. So these ideas are now becoming the starts that I then have to “just finish.”
If you always make sure you finish what you start, while turning more of your ideas into starts to finish, you’ll find yourself becoming a songwriting machine.
Oh, and one final thing – it’s okay if plenty of these songs don’t cut the mustard. Give yourself permission to write some lousy songs. The great ones will be in there.