Self-doubt is a real thing when you're a creative person. Actually, I suppose most people have some level of self-doubt when it comes to what's important to them. But this is for all my fellow songwriters out there. The sensitives types. The storytellers. The silent screamers who are in a constant spiral of 'what am I trying to say and why do I find it so hard to say it?'
I spent a majority of 2022 writing songs in my garage for my first album. It's a dream I've been chasing for the best part of my 40 years on earth. I always knew I wanted to write an album because I always felt I had a story to tell. To be completely
honest, I've stood in my own way for so long that I became a walking advert for imposter syndrome and got comfortable playing a self-deprecating, I'm not good enough version of myself, so much so that I believed it. But something changed when I became a mother. Something clicked or snapped to be more accurate. I'd had enough of submitting to my inner critic, she had been in control for far too long and the time had come to shut her up. It was now or never. I finally let my inner voice speak. But it wasn't the triumphant, phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes moment I thought it was going to be. You see, being silenced for so long and then having the floor only resulted in garbled ramblings and frustrated outbursts, mixed messages and a spiral of a different kind.
I'm lost in a wilderness of my own design - never a truer word spoken. It's a lyric from my song 'Panic Attack' and I'm incredibly proud of it because for the first time, I've said something intentionally. I made this mess and it's up to me to make sense of it and turn it into something useful. No-one else is going to do it for me so I have to start trusting myself and for want of a better phrase, 'speak my truth' otherwise what's the point? Chasing dreams is a messy business; emotions, everywhere. Self-doubt is part of the deal when you're a songwriter and the inner critic often pipes up asking the questions; will people like it? Will they understand? Will they care? When really the question I should be asking myself is 'does it matter?'
The answer will vary depending on your situation. If you're a songwriter writing for a big artist, signed to a publishing deal and remunerated for your work (ha!), then yes it very much matters what people think. Your livelihood depends on it. Your songs become part of a popularity contest that is precarious as it is confidence-boosting. You could have all the skill in the world, all the connections and a healthy back catalogue of cuts under your belt but that doesn't guarantee where your next gig is coming from. If your song reaches people's ears you've won half the battle, and if you have an advertising budget behind you the chances are you're going to reach some ears. However if those ears don't care for your song, then it's death by swiping and you're back to square one.
If, like me, you're an independent songwriter who isn't signed to a publishing house, and doesn't write for established artists, then no it doesn't really matter what people think. As harsh as it sounds and as difficult as it is to accept, people don't care what you've been through, they care if it's relatable to them. So the question then becomes, doesn't it make sense then to focus on telling your story and being totally honest about what you want to say? Because then at least you get something out of it which is far more valuable than money (cause let's face it, the dire streaming rates will never recoup what you put into your art), you get a song that is going to connect to your listener and make them feel heard and understood. Granted, it may not reach millions of ears, but the people who do hear your song and relate to your story will pause. These days if you can catch someone's attention for a few minutes, you're winning. If they like what they hear, you've struck gold.
To my fellow songwriters out there who struggle with self-doubt. The inner critic has had their day, now it's time to quiet the noise and tell your story. There are people waiting to hear it. Come and be part of something new: my Mindful Songwriting online course will be open for enrolment soon, don't miss out, join the waitlist now.