Songwriting is Work.

Writing is work.  Moreover, the better you write the harder the work.  I worry as an artist when people try to convince young artist that writing is easy.  If it was the people who say things like that would be making their living selling songs, and almost universally when you examine the person who is saying that writing is easy, you will note that they do not make their living doing it.  Almost all art forms look easy when someone who has spent their life in the honest pursuit of something performs them.  All it takes to find out how truly difficult any art form truly is, is to attempt it.  There is one other way, though I am probably going to piss off people who don’t take it seriously but for the sake of the young lets take off the gloves and step into the ring.   (I was just told by someone who understands public debate much better than I shall ever understand it that I will put my friends on the spot if I write what I am about to write, if that is so I can only ask forgiveness and say that I have spent my life trying desperately to pass on what meager gifts I have been blessed with and I will not allow someone to tell young writers they do not have to work at their craft, and I know of no-one who works harder than my songwriter friends; take David Rovics, for example,  examination of nearly any song David writes reveals the depth of understanding that someone like David brings to his task.  Let us face it the man works harder than anyone except the late Howard Zinn at making certain his history is honest.  Then you have the honest and obvious work of melody and verse, which is both admirable and astounding in its consistence and it, depth, traits that only come with work.  David, like me has spent his life in pursuit of the unattainable.  We spend hours sweating over melody lines, endlessly practicing and revising just to make certain your fingers will be in the demanding place you order them to be at just the right moment, all to place your melody in just the right way so that people will remember them with little effort on their part.  Then there are the endless rep’s you must endure as you attempt to both find the poorly written line and correct your failing.  I often perform songs I wrote one day that night or the next day, but I have usually spent ten or twelve hours on the song by then, which is something I will confess at sixty is extremely physically painful.  In addition, those who know me know that early public performance is part of my editing process; the song you hear in the beginning is never the finished product.  I need the audience reaction to tell me if I got it right.  If I do not get the reaction, I was after I go back to work until I get it right.  Work, work, work, that is simply the name of the story.  You are only as good as the sweat you apply to your task.  People who don’t work at songs, well I didn’t start this odious discussion, but young songwriters are a big part of my life and I will not let them be lied to by someone who is throwing sour grapes at those who play by the rules of their union, attempt to leave the world a better place, and keep their noses to the grind stone, so let me put it this way; songs don’t sell unless they have been edited and edited over and over again.  In other word they person worked to get it right.  Thus, people who do not work hard do not sell songs, they may sell a song, since anyone can catch lightning in a bottle once, but to make a living at it is something else entirely and like any other task to do it well takes work, dedication, and intellectual and artistic honesty.  If it is not right, you do not let yourself get away with it.  I work with young songwriters as often as I get the chance and I count those hours as some of the most stimulating and rewarding of my day, but I will not be dishonest with them and tell them they are not joining a profession that is difficult in many, many ways.  The travel is brutal, the odds are long, and most importantly the competition is working like a dog to write something that is as good as they can possibly make it.  Either you work your ass off, most often for years while no one notices or supports you, or you stand on the sidelines in some artistic backwater and spout things that are simply untrue concerning any art form, or any of life’s important or stimulating work.  You do not save the world by working a little bit, you do not change a great wrong by committing yourself a on a once over basis, and you do not achieve the level of perfection that you are capable of without giving it your all and your complete honesty.  Michael Angelo once said that he carved an elephant by finding a chunk of marble and knocking off everything that was not an elephant.  Funny, but that is all it was intended to be.  If you think it is easy, grab a hunk of marble and try.  Moreover, if you think song writing is easy, take an unedited song, and a well edited and professional version of the same song and see which one turns heads in somewhere like Nashville and Austin.  Nuff said, and I am certain enough people pissed off.  Then again education is always de-centering, and the job of the elder has nothing to do with being liked; it has to do with being honest. 

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