I occasionally have people come to me and say, “I don’t put my songs up in the Songtown forum for critiques by my peers because it seems like so many people there are so ‘green’ and the advice I get is not usually helpful.”
What they are actually saying, in a politically correct way, is, “I’m so much better than most people there, so they don’t have much to offer me.”
My answer is always the same. If you want people who are better than you to take the time to help you, then you need to take the time to help others. The answer to every situation in life is not, “How much can I GET out of this?” Sometimes, the reverse is true. Maybe what you GIVE is the important question to ask. And, sometimes you get more from giving than you get from trying to get all the time!
I have become a better writer by critiquing other people’s songs. Sometimes I learn the most from critiquing a really bad song. Thinking through what is wrong with it helps me avoid the same pitfalls in my own writing.
I would encourage everyone to think about the kinds of critique and encouragement that you desire for your own writing. Then, spend some time each week giving that kind of feedback to others on the Songtown forum. If you don’t feel you are far enough along to give a lot of specific advice, then just offer an encouraging word. Sometimes all you need to say is, “I love this! I can’t get it out of my head!” That can make someone’s day.
If you do have some helpful thoughts on making the song better, then offer that up in an encouraging way. If you want examples of how to do that, you can check out the way our pros handle it in the Pro Feedback Forum.
If someone gives you advice that you don’t agree with, thank them for their time and leave your song the way it is. Often, you will find that their thoughts have merit. Just this week, our Songtown friend, Pete Smith, sent me an e-mail giving me some feedback on one of my songs. He apologized profusely and said that he knew he didn’t have any “right” to criticize my work. He was commenting on one of my favorite songs I have written. I could have blown off his criticism, but I thought about it and I think he might be right. I have wondered why that song hasn’t been recorded and Pete may have just given me the answer to fixing it.
We are all friends and family here. Any feedback given in a positive, encouraging way is valuable. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. All of us are music lovers and all of us love to write. You might get the feedback you need from the most unlikely source. Don’t discount any of it!
If any of us reach the point where we don’t desire and value sincere, helpful criticism, then we will NEVER get better. It doesn’t matter how many cuts the person giving the feedback has. They could be right.
So I challenge everyone to get involved in helping others. You might just find that you are getting more than you’re giving. That’s how karma works.