I asked myself this morning over a cup of coffee: how can I become a better songwriter? This led me to thinking about what makes a good songwriter, and here’s what I came up with, in no particular order:
- The curiosity to wonder about and explore thoughts and feelings;
- the creativity and intellect to create story around those thoughts/feelings;
- the sensibility to add emotional depth to the story;
- the eloquence to express the story in writing;
- the musicality to compose a melody around the story; and,
- the objectivity to edit it all.
All of the above contribute to being a good songwriter, but I believe that what sets apart the great songwriter from the good songwriters is the last one: the ability to edit. In a Nashville documentary I saw recently a young songwriter captured this sentiment in his praise of Kris Kristofferson: “He’s thrown away better songs than I’ll ever write.” A testament to his power of editing I guess.
By the way, do check out the documentary For the Love of Music: the Story of Nashville. It’s on Youtube and well worth it.