In my week to week, day to day life one thing that is a normality for me as a singer/songwriter is…you guessed it, songwriting. Just a little background about me as a songwriter, I’ve been writing songs for just about two years so I will absolutely preface this whole conversation with the fact that I am by no means an expert. This is a craft that I believe you have to work at to get better but the question I’ve recently been asking myself what’s the best way to write songs…from complete inspiration or perspiration? Let me explain what I mean by that…
From what I’ve come across there’s essentially two major approaches to songwriting that I see in songwriters. The first being songs or writers that rely strictly on inspiration. The song comes from a moment in their life, a memory they have from their childhood, something their friend experienced, a movie they saw, and so on. The list could go on forever with all the ways we are inspired in the world. Then there’s this other approach that I’ve come to realize is more common that I haven’t seen till recently. I refer to this as a “perspiration” approach which is simply to say that the way to become better at songwriting is to put in the hard work (I.e. writing as many songs as you can). I’ve been wrestling with this idea for a few weeks now just to say, “which one is right?”
This past weekend I spent a day in Clarksville, TN (just outside of Nashville) writing with a close friend of mine and we dove into this idea. As writers we both recognized that we find ourselves at times looking too much for perfection from a first draft (if only it were that easy). Yet sometimes the best songs are written on the first try, so where’s the balance in this? Where is the black and white correct answer? Funny enough we couldn’t answer the question and I think that’s actually is the answer….I don’t know if there is one. What I’m starting to realize is this…writing from inspiration, meaning and purpose has more value that we can even begin to describe because of how deep you can go into the story for the simple fact of IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Then on the flip side, writing because you want to get better at the craft can actually help you go deeper into the inspiration.
Here’s what I’m getting at…I think with this whole songwriting thing there’s value in truly looking at inspiration and running with it but at the same time you have to have the skill and competency to do that effectively. I have a friend named Chris who has been wanting to get songwriting to a point where he no longer has to wait for inspiration. He wants to get to a point where he can almost create it himself. That’s a big thing to say but as I do more and more of this creative thing I realize he may not be too far off. At the end of the day I think you always have to find that balance of inspiration with perspiration (or craft).
I think this goes for anything though. Anything in this world that would be considered a craft or a skill has to have a balance of inspiration and perspiration. A carpenter can’t just make the things that he feels inspired to make. He has customers that he has to satisfy and if he waits around for customers that want him to make what he’s inspired to make he won’t have a job doing that very long. I believe the same thing goes with songwriting, every so often there’s going to come a little glimmer in the sky and if a songwriter can grab it quick enough then maybe he can turn it into a song. Yet to do that he has to have the craft and ability to make that something unique and interesting.
Everyone else, what do you think? Whether songwriting, carpentry, photography, graphic design, cooking…does this resonate?
Let me know if you’re a believer in inspiration, perspiration, or both.