3 benefits of songwriting imperfection

This article by my friend Brad Dunse appeared in Muse's News which is a special section of the website The Muse's Muse Songwriting Resource. Every so often we abandon songwriting “How Tos” to scratch around in our heads a little, and there’s some lessons from other writers we just can’t pass up. For instance, Berklee College of Music’s Professor Pat Pattison (best-selling author of Writing Better Lyrics) and country music’s phenomenal #1 hit writer Jeffrey Steele might surprise you with their confessions. Do you ever have songwriting doubts? Ever feel like you just said something stupid in a co-writing session? Ever written something and then later realize it stinks like the accident your puppy left on the floor? Professor Pattison's first Nashville co-write began with doubting his ability to come up with good ideas and lyrics; feeling like his whole status as Berklee professor was on the line. What if he couldn’t come up with something? What if they were dumb… idiotic ideas? He was getting cold feet until the door opened up and his co-writer walked in and said the same things you’ll read a few lines down the page here. And what about Jeffrey Steele, a writer with hits littering the streets of Nashville confessing at a Nashville Songwriter’s Association International (NSAI) workshop, that he still writes crap songs. Of course, we don’t ever hear or see them, so we assume it never happens. What is it you expect of yourself as a writer? Do you expect to be 100% perfect every time you open your mouth or put ink to paper as it were? It can’t be done my friend. On top of that, here are three benefits of being imperfect that will help your songwriting. 1. The “I’m glad I got that out of my system” factor. When I’d gotten my first computer, I was terrified I’d somehow break it. I’d installed a buggy program multiple times that wasn’t working right. Frustrated, I went up into the file manager, highlighted the MS Cook section, and started deleting files within the program. Relentless confirmation dialog boxes of “Are you sure you want to delete this file” kept popping up. I got real good at angrily pressing delete with my right pointer and the “Y” key with the left. Bang-bang, bang-bang, bang-bang! I smacked those keys until I looked at the icon to the left and saw MS Cook wasn’t highlighted, but MS DOS was. I’d systematically deleted most of my operating system. My worst fears come true in less than one-week of owning it… what an IDIOT! I’ll tell you though, my fears of wrecking it were gone. I’d already done the most stupidest thing you could do to a computer, how could it get any worse? So when it comes to writing?  Realize you’re going to mess up, and it’s okay; everyone does from time to time. And besides getting the worst behind you, screwing up will sometimes let you… 2. Find a gem. One song I’d written years back started… “She’s forty-four years old, jogs her daily miles Her friends’ll tease her, she’ll look at them and smile She’ll let ‘em eat their Snickers and their laughs Her days of doing nothing ‘bout her dreams have past.” When I wrote it, the idea of eating a laugh along with junk food just popped out of nowhere and I thought it a mistake, until I realized it was a great way to depict someone “eating crow,” as well gave a double meaning to Snickers, so I kept it. I bet you’ve had similar instances in your writing or conversations. Once you see how those stupid little mistakes can be turned successful, that will… 3. Give you confidence. Once you realize everyone has doubts, has fears, has mistakes; and not only are they overcome but often times those lemons are turned to lemonade, that helps remove that doubt and frees you up to be loose and crazy with your writing. You’ll take more chances and write better stuff as a result. I learned a lot from deleting my OS on that computer, including the telephone number of the IT guy who fixed it, but I was also more confident in the future, and more productive as a result. So go for it, be bold, be creative and don’t be afraid to join Pat, Jeff, and any other writer out there… make your mistakes, it just might be a gem with some dust on it. Until next time… keep writing from the heart!

Brad Dunse is a performing songwriter based deep in the country's heartland reflecting sensitivity of daily living in his songs. Writing primarily in Folk, Country, Pop, or Americana, he occasionally writes CCM. Co-writer of The Wall, a tribute to Viet Vets receiving major market airplay, he's also received airplay on NPR, local public, independent, and web radio. He is a freelance writer, is board member of Minnesota Association of Songwriters, been member or involved in ASCAP, NSAI, SongU and other organizations. You can visit his web site at WWW.BRADDUNSEMUSIC.COM as well Add As Facebook Friend or Follow Him On Twitter.