How do you deal with self doubt as a songwriter?By Don • Category: Featured
Someone named Richard W submitted a question to a songwriting forum:
“How do you deal with self doubt as a songwriter?”
Good question. It is something all creative people face.
First, let’s take a look at some of our great creative types and their battles with self doubt:
The famous painter Agnes Martin said: “An artist is the one who can fail and fail and still go on.”
The writer John Keats said just before he died, “I have left no immortal work behind me—nothing to make my friends proud of my memory.”
“A bad word from a colleague can darken a whole day,” Orson Welles once told Peter Bogdanovich. “We need encouragement a lot more than we admit, even to ourselves.”
Do these feelings go away once you achieve success or recognition? Let’s take a look:
The first time legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa played Carnegie Hall, he said, “I never expected to get into Carnegie Hall…I never even expected to get into the front door, let alone come through the back door the way all the really great artists have.”
Jazz trumpeter Harry James, also when playing Carnegie Hall for the first time said, “I feel like a whore in church.”
After returning from his first tour of England and France in 1933, the legendary Duke Ellington said, “If they think I’m that important, then maybe I have kinda said something, maybe our music does mean something.”
Leonardo da Vinci said, “That painter who has no doubts will achieve little.”
So here’s the thing songwriters:
Doubt, while scary, is normal. Realizing it is normal can be a freeing experience. Take comfort in the fact that – as long as you are attempting to create something (i.e. working hard) – self doubt will come, and the more you push yourself the more that doubt may creep to the surface. That means you are on the right track. You are following in the footsteps of the great ones.
Songs come from a place that can’t be described logically. When an interviewer asks famous songwriters how they write songs, they often respond with jokes, or how they just let go and let the song come to them.
You see, anything creative comes from that un-explainable place, from the muse. Since it is mysterious and illogical, all you can do is channel that spirit and have faith. Yes, faith. That is how you combat the creative self-doubt.
Learn to build faith in your creative process. It is a daily, lifelong process. Think of it like yoga, a martial art, or anything that takes a lifetime to master.
It’s a practice of faith for what you believe in – that magic combination that brings together the song.