It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given as a songwriter is to only concern myself with the things I can control. And when it comes to the music business, that ain't much, folks. I seem to be reminded of this quite frequently these days.
I can't make publishers listen to my songs, pitch my songs, or demo my songs. I can't make artists cut my songs. I can't make people file paperwork so I can get paid. I can't make marketing departments do their job so my product gets sold. The list goes on and on. I have considered using certain tactics to make those things happen, but I'd kinda like to stay out of prison.
Although the list of all the things I have no control over frustrates the heck out of me, here's what I can do: I can write. I can sit my butt down every day and write songs. And then I can write some more. I can try and write a better song today than I did yesterday. I can study, read, pray, listen, and do countless other things that will make me a better writer. And then I can write some more. And when I've written something that I think is worthy of someone else hearing it, I can work my you-know-what off trying to get someone to listen. I can't make them listen. But I can try. And then I can write some more.
I've learned that at some point, you have to decide if you're going to be consumed by the frustration of the things you can't control, or be purposeful in how you approach what you can control. Add to that, the realization that I am to trust in One who has all things in His control, and I'm left with the conviction that I am really just supposed to be a faithful steward of a gift. And stewarding that gift well demands my all because it came from a Giver who deserves my all.
It was about 13 years ago when I decided to approach my songwriting very differently. Having written for over 20 years at that point in my life, I had recently become very aware of my own shortcomings when it came to stewarding my creative gifts well. It was then that I decided to become a student of songwriting.
I began to devour any book I could find on songs and songwriting. I attended conferences and workshops. I sought out relationships with people who could mentor me, challenge me, and who offered to invest in my writing. It was the beginning of a humbling journey, on which I have discovered much about myself.
This fall has ushered in a new season of life for me. And while I find it very healthy allowing myself to grieve the passing of time, I also know that each new season brings wonderful things that I don't want to miss. As I have considered how to best use the hours that I now find at my disposal, I could easily fill those hours with writing projects that need my attention. I certainly want to be productive, and plan to be. However, I am also committed to balancing the time I'll spend crossing things off my project list with my continuing education in the area of songwriting. Books, DVDs, podcasts, workshops; things that remind me there is always room to grow.
I'm grateful I get to continue my education without the pressure of grades, professors and a looming graduation date. 'Cause that stuff is just stressful. Learning is fun.