However good or bad you are as a lyric writer, people will always have different opinions about your work. Depending on your goals and how thick your skin is, you should choose carefully with whom you share your product. You should also learn not to take to heart any comments given.
Most family members will think whatever you do is good. This is obviously not true. Even the best lyric writers in the world have written bad lyrics, so those “default” opinions, however nice, should be taken for what they are; encouraging words from people that wants you to do well. In a way I’ve been lucky when it comes to my family’s opinions. The few who have taken the time to read anything I’ve sent to them are so unsure of my “talent” that they won’t give an opinion before they’ve heard from someone else that I’ve written something descent. I learned early on to take this as a good way to keep grounded, and these days I don’t bother them with my creative words.
I have a lot of friends that follow what I do and who are honest with their feedback, both when they like something and when they don’t. Luckily some of them work with language and writing, so their words carry more weight that way. I’m also a member of UK Songwriting Contest’s (UKSC) community FB-page where fellow song writers share their fragile dreams through songs and lyrics. I’ve learned that if something I post there, doesn’t get one single like or comment, it probably is a good idea not to pursue that lyric. The page has adapted a bit of Thumper’s philosophy from Disney’s film “Bambi.” In that film Thumper says; “My mama always says that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. If, on the other hand, I get a lot of comments and reactions, I always feel I may have something that, at least, the public may like.
How about my own opinions? After having been a part of some lyric competitions for a few years, I have become quite good at judging where my lyrics will end up. On some rare occasions I’ve had a happy surprise, where a lyric I almost didn’t send in has made it to the semi-final somewhere. Most times, if the outcome is the opposite I can see where the judges are coming from.
Only once have my own believes been totally opposite to what judges and other evaluators have said. It is a lyric I wrote a few months ago after one of the terror attacks. I called it “Said and Done” and I really felt I had written a good lyric. The UKSC community was of the same opinion, I have never got so much encouragement and positive feedback from my fellow competitors for any other lyric I’ve written. A lot of other friends who don’t normally comment on my work took time to write to me about this one too, so I felt it was gripping people. For once I dared to be certain I would get through to the Semi-Finals of UKSC. When the results came, I found that I hadn’t, with this specific lyric. I wasn’t far off. An annoying half point, but that meant I was nowhere with it. I was so surprised and disappointed, because I wasn’t sure how to change and better my writing anymore. I felt my best was in that lyric and if, what I felt, was my best wasn’t even given a nod for the semis after four years of learning, trying, changing and doing everything in my power not to give up, I might as well pack it in.
Before doing so I decided to send it for an evaluation over the “pond”. The respond broke my heart. I got crushed. I got the worst evaluation I’ve ever been given. It wasn’t the fact that I was crushed by the evaluator that worried me. My big worry was that my own opinion about this specific lyric obviously was light years away from what voices in the business thought about it. This made me wonder if I was starting to become like one of the many people entering reality shows with very high opinion about themselves but blind to their failings? This really scared me, because if I was starting to lose my grip about what is good and what isn’t, to such a degree that the risk of making a fool of myself through my writing was becoming a real danger, I would rather stop.
A few months have rolled on since this and I’ve had some other lyrics evaluated with much better results. I have also remembered that even though the evaluators are in the business, we are still talking about only one voice, one opinion. I am one of the people that find it much easier to take one bad review to heart then ten good ones so I am trying my best to put this incident into perspective.
What worries me most, and this is the first time I have voiced it publicly, is that the lyrics I wrote in the beginning that were very spontaneous and off the cuff, so to speak, have had more “success” than the ones I’ve written lately, after having had time to study and “learn” about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to writing lyrics. Hopefully, when the things I’m learning have had time to mature I will find a new balance between spontaneity and knowledge and I will be able to lift my writing to a new level.
I will share “Said and Done” with you so you can judge for yourself. One thing the evaluation said was that the lyrics would need a lot of rewriting before someone could attempt to put music to them. Well, someone has written a beautiful melody to “Said and Done” just as it is. The composer wants a better demo to be made before sharing the song, so I can’t do that at this moment, but here are the words. Feel free to comment!
Take care until next time and happy writing!
Said and done
I know a misguided driver
along a pedestrian street,
could end my plans in a second
and hinder my heart in its beat.
If all I have as a weapon
are words pouring out in a song.
Should I stop trying this moment?
Or wouldn’t that be just as wrong?
When all is said and done,
this war can still be won.
If, for each hateful act,
we keep our love intact.
I know I sound naïve
but one thing I believe.
Peace can still be won,
before all is said and done!
My words may look worn and shabby,
with less impact than I would want.
More skilful pens have done better,
had more style, been more confident.
Still, this can’t stop me from saying
I won’t let my heart turn to stone.
I won’t start hating my neighbour,
his religion or colour tone.
©Åsa Sandberg 2017