Category Archives: writing


For myself and other beginner writers, there’s a self-doubt demon, conscious or unconscious, that telling us, “You’re not really an artist. You’re not really a writer. A writer is Hemingway, Yeats, Twain, Faulkner. You call yourself a writer? Ha! You’re not in that class. Who are you trying to fool? Do something useful.”

That self-doubt demon is evil. You have to confront him, punch him in the stomach, kick his teeth in. He’s holding you back from doing what will make you happy. Of course you’re an artist! Of course you’re a writer! If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be trying to find time for it! Yes, you’re not a Faulkner–yet; that’s because you haven’t put enough time in. And maybe you’ll never be that good. So what? You’re still a writer, you’re still an artist. This is what you do.

A couple years ago, at Song School, I went to a class by Beth Nielsen-Chapman. She’s been making a living as a songwriter in Nashville for 25-30 years. She said (paraphrasing), “Everyone has had unique experiences, and so everyone sees the world in a unique way. Therefore, only you can write your songs. No one else can.” This had a huge impact on me. On the one hand, it means that the greatest songwriters–the ones that I admire the most–can’t write my songs. Even with their craft and experience, they don’t see things the way I see them. That’s a powerful feeling. On the other hand, it’s an awesome responsibility. It means that, if I don’t write these songs, they will never be written.

Of course, the self-doubt demon is still there. Even after knocking him out, he gets back up and sucker-punches me when I’m least expecting it. It’s a constant battle, but I think that half the battle is being aware of his existence, and knowing that he’s wrong.

Songwriting Discipline

I’ve learned that, just like exercise, you have to schedule songwriting (or any kind of writing). You can’t take the attitude that’s it’s optional; something you’ll do “if you have time”. You’ll never have time. You have to make time. It has to be scheduled, and you have to be “religious” about it. And you must defend it from all attackers–wives, kids, friends… but mainly from the enemy within yourself.

Yourself? Yes, yourself. My brother Greg, a writer and English professor, is grappling with this problem. Why don’t you schedule time to write? Because, he said, “it seems self-indulgent rather than important and essential.”

Of course that’s nonsense, as he knows. If you’re a writer–even a beginner writer, then it’s important and essential for your happiness.

But like exercise, you need to set achievable, realistic goals. Maybe you shouldn’t say “I’m going to schedule an hour a day”. That’s too big a departure from your current routine, so you could be setting yourself up for failure. Try something less that’s more easily achievable. For example, 20 or 30 minutes, 3 days a week. You can increase the time later if you want. But regardless how short a time it is, it should be a regular schedule. For example: “On Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning I will write from 6:20am to 6:50am.”

You’d be surprised what you can accomplish in 1/2 hour, or even 20 minutes.

I’m not a morning person, so getting up early 3 days a week to write just isn’t going to happen. I know that. I work a day job, so after I get off work at 5pm, I go exercise on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (also Saturday and Sunday). Then I take a shower, and write from about 6:30pm to 7:00pm. Then I have dinner. So I schedule both my exercise and my songwriting, one after the other. I also schedule a longer session on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Another thing I learned: don’t set any goals or expectations for your writing period. For example, DON’T say, “I’m going to finish the song I started 6 months ago in this session.” If you do that, you won’t finish it, because you’ll be feeling the pressure, and then you’ll beat yourself up about it. The only thing you have to say is, “I am going to write during this time.” If you schedule time and write, then things WILL get accomplished eventually.


Welcome to my Blog

Welcome to my google blog site. Yes, I’m belatedly joining the blogging fad. I’ll probably use this mostly for music–to comment on what I’ve learned about songwriting, recommend musical artists I’ve discovered, and such. I might comment on politics, but probably not. I find that the political blogsites just become an insult contest; nobody ever convinces anyone to change their mind. So I’ll probably stick to music, but never say never…