The joy and suffering of songwriting

The joy and suffering of songwriting

It is around 11 am on Tuesday. I’m about to experience the joy and suffering of songwriting. I take my trusty guitar out of its case and sit down on the sofa. The sun is reflecting from the white wall of the building across the road and making its way through my living room window. A cup of strong coffee and iPhone with its notes open, sit on the coffee table right in front of me. I plug the guitar, and as the string resonates, it sends its vibrations bouncing off the old pine floor and the walls of my one-room apartment. I patiently listen to the tone and let it guide me.


Some days it can take time before the inspiration strikes. It can even be a struggle, but not this day. I have something in my mind. You could even say I am troubled by something. It’s like a shadow in my heart, and it won’t leave me alone until I release it. Words start to spin in my mind. I sing a line and look for another to follow it hoping it will make sense. I have no idea where it comes from, or how I know to match the rhythm and rhyme. It’s like speaking a language you learned as a child, you just speak.

I finish a verse, within fifteen minutes. There are doubts about a few lines, and I try to tweak them. I go back and forth, but probably eventually go back to the first version. Singing through it a few times, I try to get a feel for the mood. Try to listen to what it sounds like from an outsiders perspective. If I feel awkward singing a line, it probably will sound awkward as well. It seems good, and I feel excited about what I have written.

Getting Stuck

But without any warning, I get stuck. I try to work on a chorus idea, but nothing comes to me. The harder I try, the more lost I seem to get. I start to doubt every idea that comes to me. Suddenly writing a song is not fun anymore. The path ahead that will take me to a finished song seems blurred, and the end is out of sight. I feel the desperation taking over, and after several failed attempts I put the guitar down. It is not the day to finish this song

Wednesday midday. I have returned to the scene of the crime once again armed with my guitar. I sing through what I had written the day before, and it still sounds good, it feels right. An idea for a few chorus lines even came to my head! And by the way, those few lines is excellent progress. But the rest of it does not seem to make any sense.

I try to move on to the next verse and nothing… I wonder for a while if the verse I wrote the day before could actually be the second verse and I would need to set the scene better with something new? That can often be the case when you write just a stream of thought. But that does not seem to be the case with this one.


After about an hour of working on the song, I start to feel deep frustration followed by crippling self-doubt. Suddenly I doubt my ability to finish this song. What if I can’t write another song ever again? Is everything I write from now on going to be full of crap? Have the gods of songwriting decided to close the tap of creativity on me?

I know all of that sounds dramatic and an overreaction. But in the middle of the creative process when the self-doubt kicks in, it kicks in hard. We live to create. But as there are no guide books to study from, no college that can make you creative in the first place, you need to figure out your process. And despite the bold exterior, every artist you ever come across, struggle with self-doubt. Like we are about to get caught for “faking it”. Whoever tells you otherwise, is lying.


Thursday I have a breakthrough. I dig back into that shadow in my heart. I allow myself to feel the discomfort again and relive the moment that triggered it. And once again, the lyrics start spilling out. I redefine the melody line with every pass. And within 30 minutes I have the song finished. I feel ecstatic. It is a great feeling. And now I cannot wait to share it with you. I sing through the song several times, and it feels natural. Also, that shadow in my heart seems to have faded away. It’s like I got it out of my system.

The next day I record a short video singing the song, and on the following Monday, I upload the song on YouTube and share it with you. Then I move on to a new song. The joy and suffering of songwriting


P.S. Check out the song HERE


Leave a Reply