Songwriting Imitates Life: It’s All About the Process

by Krylyn on August 10, 2011

With songwriting, there is often an outcome or finished product called a song. But the joy of songwriting for me is in what happens during the writing process. Ideas come, seemingly from no source (or maybe THE source), and flow through me. I just let it happen. I get in touch with feelings and thoughts I didn’t know were there, or that were buried or hidden just out of my reach. It is the one area of my life I am routinely not a perfectionist. I don’t expect too much from myself. And I allow myself to go with the flow.

When inspiration strikes, I let it carry me where it wants to go. Sometimes it’s a long journey, sometimes short, and sometimes it turns and takes me in another direction. Often, I can sit down and write the lyrics and melody of a song within 30 minutes. Other times, I get a verse or a phrase written and the flow stops. Maybe the song isn’t ready to go further at all, it was just a quick expression and now it’s over. Sometimes, I’ll look at it a few days, weeks, months, or years later and the rest of the song flows and gets finished. The point is that I don’t force it. I let the process happen and know that whatever is meant to be will be.

But it took me a long time to figure out that the process was the key. I remember getting frustrated when inspiration didn’t come when, where, and how I wanted. I longed for the finished song and cursed any interruptions in getting me there. Interruptions like the obligation of going to a job, or being somewhere at a certain time, or the phone ringing, a knock at the door, my stomach growling, or any number of other things. I just wanted to get through the process and was content to pay little attention to what was going on around me.

Sound familiar?

So often, our society is bent on outcome – realized goals, acquired possessions, tangible evidence of success, doing whatever it takes to get the job done. But often, we go after the outcome at the expense of ourselves. We can lose sight of what’s important, lose sleep, skip meals, avoid friends and family, not take care of ourselves. In other words, compromise our physical and mental health…all for the sake of a goal

Process is the journey. It’s about keeping our eyes on the goal but not allowing our focus to be so all-or-nothing, tunnel-vision, all-consuming, that we forget what’s going on around us. It’s about honoring ourselves and our vision for the future at the same time. And it can be a real challenge.

Are you outcome or process focused? If you have a to-do list a mile long, rarely take breaks, eat on the run, multi-task, don’t schedule time for yourself, and are challenged by taking good care of yourself, chances are you are more focused on the outcomes, or goals, in your life. If you routinely schedule time for yourself, don’t get too bothered by detours and changes in plans, rest when you need to rest, and make self care a priority, then you are likely a person who is focused more on the process, or journey, of your life. So which one are you? The good news is you don’t have to stay stuck on either side. Life often changes course and there’s always an opportunity to shift the way you live your life.

Being aware is always the first step in any healing journey. The next step is doing something about it. Here’s some tips you might try to get less focused on your goal and more focused on your journey…

  1. Let go of your perfection and remember…done is better than perfect.
  2. If things aren’t working smoothly, or flowing easily, let them go and focus on something else.
  3. Honor yourself by taking small breaks throughout the day. Stretch, change your scenery, or get outside for some fresh air.

I’d love to hear about your process vs. outcome story. Leave a comment below.

This is one in a series of articles from the “Songwriting Imitates Life” series where I share my own personal stories of the life lessons I’ve learned as a songwriter and healer and give tips on how you can apply the lessons in your own life.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ian Sane

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