The Journey Begins
I was working on a song recently. I wanted it to be congregational; I wanted it to be catchy, easily sing-able. I wanted all the lyrics to be fresh and new, but also speaking of something eternal. In my opinion, goal setting is good in songwriting. I think writing for a theme, a particular tempo, or key (male or female, or both, range!) is important. It’s good because if something doesn’t fit your parameters, you scrap it and keep moving. Momentum is key in songwriting. If you’re not moving forward, you’re probably stuck. Here is the flip side of this.
As I was working on this song, every line I wrote just wasn’t good enough–every melody felt cheesy, every chord sounded bland, and don’t get me started on the second verse…because, well, it didn’t exist. After about an hour of wrestling through, I was ready to call it quits. My initial excitement had given way to frustration. So, I walked away from the song.
I think if we are even remotely creative, we are probably our own worst critics. Even before someone else hears a twinkle of our song, we have already cast great judgment upon it.
Eight years into songwriting, with many contrasting seasons, I know this: God is interested in the journey. And what I have realized (and am still realizing) is that songwriting is not the exception to this rule but is very much in the center of it.
The creative process is more important than the outcome.
When I write what I think is a bad lyric/melody/song, how I react becomes important in the process. If I get frustrated, I could end up walking away. When I think of the process of songwriting, I very much want it to reflect strength of my character. I want in the frustration to seek God, in the disappointment to believe that it is purposed for growth. When feedback comes, when I share the song and the response isn’t what I expected, I want to be marked with humility. I think songwriting can be purposed not just to spark truth in the hearts of those who hear a finished song, but it can spark and grow truth in the writer, as they write it.
I think parameters are good. I had an idea for a theme for a song and even came up with a first line. Then I set some parameters for it. I decided I wanted it to be slow, mellow. I wanted the chorus to lift a little but not to become a ballad, and I wanted the bridge to be the highest point of the song. I chose to take every idea and move with it, even if I knew it wouldn’t be the final, I wanted to keep moving. I sang through lyrics that I knew wouldn’t work, but kept them untill I found the ones that did. I smiled through the bad melodies, and laughed at the terrible chords that weren’t working. You should hear my voice memos. I found that even in the midst of what I would have once deemed a failure or even a waste of time, I found joy and hope that I was once step closer to finishing the song.
I hope for you that if you have lost joy in songwriting you let God rekindle it in the journey, and if you are just starting out then don’t be surprised if frustration creeps in. Remember the journey of the song is important. Don’t lose heart.
Jennie Reynolds is the Artist Development teacher at Ocean's Edge School of Worship. She is an excellent teacher, music artist, wife and friend. Learn more about Jennie.