When I first started to pursue a career in music, I set out on a path to try to become the best at everything.
I saw people making their own demos, so I went out and bought a ton of gear.
I saw people coming up with really cool guitar licks, so I started working at that.
Others were singing their own demos, so I tried to get better in the studio with my vocals. And the list went on and on.
After 2 years of writing on my own and making NO money, I did manage to get a publishing deal. My publisher made it clear that I was getting the deal based on potential, NOT based on having even one song that was commercially viable. It was sort of like a girl asking you to the prom and saying "I had hoped to find someone else, but you are the last guy available". But I digress.
Two years into the writing deal, I realized that my relentless quest to become the best at everything had failed. I was improving some in every area that I had been working on, but I was still not getting any activity with my songs. And, I was in extreme danger of losing my writing deal altogether.
One day, in the midst of a lot of frustration and fear, it hit me. I was trying to become one of the best in the world at a whole long list of things that I was not even average at. If you put me in ANY group of songwriters in Nashville at that time, I would have been in the lower half in regard to my guitar playing, my vocals or my ability to make my own demos.
In other words, I was wasting MOST of my time. I realized that day that I needed to figure out what I was best at and to try to become one of THE best at THAT.
When I did an honest self-evaluation, I realized that I was already better than average at lyric writing and at coming up with interesting ideas.
So, I began spending 90% of my time on those two things. I still dabbled in the other areas, but I spent the huge majority of my time coming up with idea and with learning to write better lyrics.
Guess what happened? I found a niche. I began to develop a reputation for being really good in those two areas. The phone began to ring. Songs started to be put on hold. My writing improved dramatically. I purposely set out to find co-writers that were better guitar players, singers and studio people than I was.
As a side benefit, I began to enjoy writing more than ever. I had found my place. I was doing what I was good at. And it was working.
I encourage everyone to take an honest look in the mirror. What are you really good at? In what area of writing are you in the upper half already? Spend your time there. If you can hone ONE skill and become world class at that - you've got a shot!
None of the writers I work with are world class in every area. They all have strengths and weaknesses. If you can identify yours and find people to help fill in where you are weak, you can find your place as well.