I used to come up with a catchy melody and one good line, sit down for 20 minutes, write down the first rhymes that came to me, and call a song finished. Those songs have since disappeared.
These days, writing a song takes months or years. Much of that time is spent with the song put away, focused on other things. This time away from a song allows me to be more objective when I need to be critical of it and make revisions. Sure, it’s possible to write a great song in a matter of minutes–but that is simply not the norm. Time is an ingredient songwriters mustn’t neglect.
It’s so encouraging to read successful songwriters tell of struggling with a song for months and years. Sure, it’s great to know they’re human like me, but the greatest encouragement comes from knowing I’m on the right track and haven’t been wasting my time. I’m on the older side of 40 years of age now. I don’t have nearly the time I had when I started writing songs as a young lad–time as in both availability AND longevity. As a husband, dad, assistant pastor, and instructor it’s hard to carve out time to focus on writing; as a 40+ man, I have to make the time if I’m ever going to get it done.
I want to leave behind songs that bless the church long after I’m gone. In order for my writing to be timeless, I have to give it time. You too, young songwriter, should learn to give songs time–a lot of time. Those professional songwriters I mentioned earlier who say it takes months and months to write? Unfortunately, I didn’t learn it from them; I figured it out for myself through trial and error. I wish I HAD read them years ago because there’s so much I had to figure out on my own, learning and maturing over years …. Don’t reinvent the wheel: learn from me and my mistakes.
Save time now that you can give to your songs later.
There are melodies, verses, choruses, bridges, and lyrics on which I’ve been ruminating for years. Finding their fit has proven difficult, even intimidating, and possibly impossible! But I’ll keep at it and won’t let myself settle. I’ll only present to the church songs I think are worthy of her precious time.