Had a cool digital conversation with one of my VIP members the other day.

He told us he has a notebook full of song ideas, but that he has never finished a song. When he tries to write a song, it doesn’t go well. He doesn’t want to waste these good ideas on a bad song, so he waits.

It’s a common story, and I completely understand it.

That’s when I brought the tough love. Here’s what I wrote:

To be brutally honest, your ideas probably aren’t that good anyway. So take a chance. Write some bad songs. You’ll end up with some good ones anyway. And you can always steal an idea from a bad song to write a better song down the road. Right now you’re the guitar player who can’t play 4 chords but wants to learn every Van Halen solo. Gotta start somewhere.

Now before you write me off as an arrogant jerk-wad, I wasn’t just saying this to be a turd. I speak from experience:

I say that because my first 30-50 songs were garbage. Some good moments in there, but almost nothing I would play for an audience.

Since I’ve written several hundred songs over the years, I know what the path looks like. It doesn’t begin with a hit song. I continued:

You are capable of great songs, but it’s just not likely gonna happen every time, especially early on.

When I started group workouts again last spring, I could barely run 400m without stopping, gasping for air. I never finished the workouts like all the other athletes. For a long season, my goal was to simply show up and suffer through it. Nine months later, I feel more like an athlete. I’m finishing workouts, and I don’t spend as much time sucking wind, trying to catch my breath. It’s the same with songwriting or anything worth doing. You just gotta jump in and accept that it’s gonna be a mess for a while.

A few other VIP members chimed in. Nadeem said:

I’ve got a whole hard drive of bad songs, but I release the 20% that I think is good.

Ben added:

Since following the teachings of a Mr Joe Gilder I now write and finish one song at a time. I force myself to work on it till it is done. If I get another idea during that time I sing it into my phone and leave it there till I have finished the song I am working on.

This has made a MASSIVE difference and I have now released about 20 songs over the past 3.5 years.

So it’s not just theory. It actually works in the real world.

I listened to an old Zig Ziglar seminar the other day. He said something like this:

People tell me, “Oh, I can’t go back to school to get my masters degree, it’ll take me 10 years to finish, and I’ll be 50 years old when I’m done.” My response is always, “Well how old will you be in 10 years if you DON’T get that degree?”

Whether your focus is writing, recording, or mixing songs, it takes time to get really good at it. Might as well get started on that next bad song today, then. Right?


Joe Gilder
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