Songwriting and Work Ethic Wisdom from Irving Berlin

Berlin has said that he “does not believe in inspiration,” and feels that although he may be gifted in certain areas, his “most successful compositions were the “result of work.” He said that he did most of his work under pressure. He would typically begin writing after dinner and continue until 4 or 5 in the morning.

This is wikipedia so I take it with a grain of salt, however, the sentiment still speaks to me. I would never dare compare my songwriting to that of Irving Berlin. However, I’m acutely aware that songs that don’t materialize out of thin air.

“Inspiration” rarely strikes so when it does, I do my best to capture it in that moment. If it’s a lyric, I quickly put it in evernote. If it’s a melody or something more, I sing it into my voice memos. These don’t evolve into songs until I sit down, give myself some dedicated time and space, and write the damn song.

I’m also of the belief that most of my songs won’t be that special, let alone worth arranging, recording, or performing. My goal is to capture enough of ideas and write enough songs and then pick out the ones that are strongest; the ones that will resonate with a particular audience or band. I’ve been in bands that will perform a song simply because it is written. I like to think I’ve matured past this approach.

This is all to say that I didn’t fancy myself a songwriter until the last few year–and I‘m still not super comfortable with that title. I don’t have the time I’d like but I think my process keeps improving regardless of that hurdle.

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