As a whole, writers are not the most secure people in the world. Many of us battle insecurity daily. Maybe it’s because we have to put ourselves out there in a vulnerable position any time we let someone hear our songs.
I have discovered that it’s easy to play shows and sing my hits. Everyone recognizes a hit song when it lands at #1 on the charts. They sing along. They clap when I’m done – sometimes when I first start singing a part of the song they recognize.
It’s the new songs that cause the nervousness. I want people to like my new creation. I want to see in their eyes that they connect with my song and that they like it, AND me. I wonder if they are comparing the new songs to my hits. “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” was one of the most played songs of the year. It’s hard to stack up against that.
I believe that much of my insecurity comes from comparing my “normal” to other people’s highlight reels. Instead of comparing my songs to the songs of other writers at my publishing company, I compare them to big hit songs. Often, they are Grammy-winning songs.
The other writers at my company sometimes write songs that are just OK. I hear them through the walls as they are being written. They hear mine, too. None of us writes hits all of the time. That’s normal. So, when one them has a big hit, I put it in perspective with all of the good, decent and average songs I have heard from his or her catalog.
Grammy-winning songs are the top of the line. Few people EVER achieve that. Winning a Grammy is a “highlight reel” moment for anyone. Sometimes I hear a huge hit come from a writer in town and I think “Wow, he has written X, Y, and Z, all of which are AMAZING.” I start to beat myself up thinking, “Why can’t I write great songs like that?” What I don’t always stop to realize is that the writer in question has written WAY more songs that have NOT been cut than he has written big hit songs. He has some stinkers in his catalog, too.
When I compare my everyday normal to someone’s highlight reel, I am ALWAYS going to fall short. If I compared my everyday normal to MY highlight reel, I would come up short.
Recently, I was invited to a private event where Kris Kristofferson presented an award to Willie Nelson. I sat in the front row as they sang monster hit after monster hit. When Willie left the stage, I looked at his old beat up guitar sitting there and I thought, “I wonder how many really average songs that guitar has been a part of writing?” I’m guessing the answer would be thousands. But we never get to hear Willie’s bad songs. We only hear the cream of the crop.
I have decided, as best I can, to compare myself to other people’s normal. I do OK when I keep things real like that. There are people that would trade their normal for mine in a heartbeat. And, there are people that I would trade with. Keeping it real, I’m somewhere in the middle.
If you struggle with insecurity, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s biggest successes. You will fail every time with that plan and you will beat yourself down. Compare yourself to your peers. Or, better yet, compare yourself to yourself. Are you better than you were a year ago? If so, celebrate, and keep moving forward. If not, work even harder. Those are the comparisons that make you better.
Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here: www.facebook.com/songtownusa, at www.facebook.com/martydodsonsongwriter and at Twitter @SongTownUSA.