As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to become more of a fuddy duddy. The idea of not shaking a tea bag before putting in the cup is abhorrent to me. Anyone who doesn’t pre-load a knife with butter while the toast is down is just a time waster. This is just my breakfast routine. I don’t think I’m alone, as we grow older we collect ways we believe are the *right* way to do something.
It is only natural then that when we want to do something new we study the right way to do that too. For the vast majority of things in our day-to-day life that works out extremely well. Driving for example, we wouldn’t want people winging that from day one. There are some things though that should never be thought of in those terms. There is no right way to create a song, there is no right way to write a book or paint a picture. There is no right way to make money and above all there is no right way to live your life. You wouldn’t believe it though with the amount of literature there is on being able to do complicated things with easy steps:
‘6 steps to songwriting successs’ – Jason Blume
‘How to Make Money: The 88 Steps to Get Rich and Find Success’ – Felix Dennis
‘Finding Your Own North Star: How to claim the life you were meant to live’ – Martha Beck
The reason this literature exists though is because there is a market. We want to believe there is a right way, and that someone out there has already done the hard work to find it out. I have recently found myself in this trap of this too, when it came to songwriting.
For the longest time I have been paralysed by research, looking for the best strategy to create a song. I’ve obsessed over the tools people use. Questioned people about their process. Researched the structure of history’s most popular songs. Gone though hundreds of interviews with my favourite artists and professional songwriters. Searched the web for advice on being able to finish a song. All the time trying to pin down the best formulae so that every song I make from now on will be perfect. The problem I found was there were still too many variables. I might have found useful advice that covers 8-9 loose steps but there a hundreds of steps involved in making a song. What if I have to make my own step and it’s a wrong one? What then? Then the whole process would have been for naught, so I don’t start and instead continue looking for the perfect guide, the prefect strategy to follow.
Of course this is folly. Instead of fretting over having the right way I should instead be finding my own way. For it is process of finding your way that makes the art worthwhile in the first place. The acceptance that there is no right way opens you up to unlimited choices it gives you the flexibility to find exactly how you want to do it. There is no right and wrong there is just ‘your way’ and that is what makes you unique and that is what makes life worthwhile.