Do You Love To Write or Love Having Written?

At most every songwriting workshop or conference I have ever attended, someone has possed the question, “Do you love to write or love having written.” According to some, the response to this question determines whether or not you’re a real writer and will ever make it in the world of songwriting. If that makes you a little nervous to answer, join the club! 

So what’s the difference between these two seemingly similar statements about writing? The idea is that if you fall into the ‘like to write’ category you enjoy the process of writing. Whereas if you ‘like to have written’ you are more excited about the song you created and will endure what it takes to get there. At most conferences, the correct answer is to ‘love writing,’ with some going as far to say that, “If you don’t love to write you should probably become a plumber.” But is that sage advise or limited personal experience? I think it’s both. 

On the one hand, it is extremely helpful if you enjoy the process of writing, especially if you are making the task your daily occupation. Many writers in Nashville write a song every day, some will write two songs, and some will even write three or four a day. These songs are typically created during a “writing session” where a group of two or three people will get together for a scheduled appointment that usually lasts about four hours. The idea is that if you write enough and with the right people, the songs you create will get better over time and eventually you will write a great song that will be worth doing something with. So it’s true if you want to be that kind of writer, then yes, you should love the process of writing because absolutely nothing is going to happen with 99% of the songs you compose. If, however, on the other hand is where you wear your glove because you primarily “love having written”, at the end of the day when your songs don’t make it beyond the hard drive of your personal laptop, the chances are high that you will eventually become depressed and will probably quit. 

The truth that is often left unmentioned in songwriting classes taught by people who write all day, everyday, is that not all hit songs are written the same way. It turns out that many of the greatest songs of all time were written in a manner far from the writing rooms of Nashville, LA, or New York. Songs that were written by people who openly proclaim that they hated the scheduled writing approach. John Denver once said He wrote his biggest song while on a ski lift in Aspen; Bart Millard of Mercy Me told us at writing conference that he hates co-writing and just doesn’t do it, and the list goes on of would be plumbers that have made a lasting impact on their sphere of influence through their songs. So while the appointment process does often work, don’t feel like you have to fit into it because it is not for everyone all the time.

I have also come to realize, in songwriting and life in general, that the product is often worth the process. That a great achievement, a goal reached, and even a song can be worth the effort and frustration it takes to complete. Several of my best songs took a long time, went through revision after revision, and created a fair amount of frustration along the way. However, it is only at the end of the process where it is possible to see the fruit of what was labored for in how people respond to what was created. In some ways, I believe that the challenge of the process gives a song authenticity because the writer has lived with and wrested over them beyond the joy of writing. 

So whether “you love to write” or “love having written” there is enough hope to go around for all. Where you fall in the equation may help steer you in or out of living in a writing room but at the end of the day your world needs your songs and they are worth fighting for. Keep writing.