Dear Indie Girl,
The above photo was taken at Shoutfest when I was in my Junior year of high school- 2003. I’m the one on the right. My sister, Aubree, and I won a local competition to open up the festival. One of the judges was Rebecca St. James’ manager. After we won the contest, he came up to Aubree and me and told us to keep going in music, that we were good. I was star-struck, obviously. I LOVED Rebecca St. James and here was her manager telling me and my sister that we had talent! I thought we had “arrived”.
After recording for about a year, we finally had a product to sell, our very own CD. This was BIG! By the time we got done recording the songs, I was so sick of singing them, and ready to move on with more music. It shouldn’t take a year to record… I learned this later. I thought I was sick of these songs because we’d played them so much… and we had, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I was sick of them because they were poorly written. At least not until I went to school and really studied music. For a long time I would cringe when I’d hear these songs, or look at these pictures because they made me feel inadequate as a writer/performer. This CD was evidence that I was a flawed writer.
I carried this attitude into college. In 2005 Aubree and I stopped playing music together as “Kelsey & Aubree” and I went to Cornerstone University to study music. I worked hard as a music major, but I stopped writing. When I’d try to write I’d only get frustrated because I think I was growing out of my own writing. I was starting to sense that I needed to grow as a writer in order to continue to be satisfied with it. But I didn’t know how to do that.
I went away to Martha’s Vineyard in the fall semester of 2007 to the Contemporary Music Center, an intense 4 month internship for songwriters, performers, students eager to learn about the music industry. That was when I was really challenged as a writer to “get up and go to work”. To “stop waiting for inspiration”. These hard lessons every serious writer learns. I’m still learning these, every morning when I sit down to write and I immediately want to quit. The best thing I learned that semester was not to be afraid to write a bad song.
George Gershwin used to write 3 songs a day. The first two were just getting the bad songs out of the way, so he could write one truly good song. Truth be told I feel more satisfied with my work at the end of the day having written a bad song, than on a day when I haven’t written at all. And on the days I write a song I don’t like, I’m beginning to learn that that’s PERFECT! That’s right where I want to be! Why? Because it takes writing thousands and thousands of songs to become an expert. It takes years and years of practice to get really good at something. And at the end of a week of writing I’ll usually have at least 2 good songs that I can work with (If I sit down everyday to write). 2 out of 5- ain’t bad! And even if I only have 1 good song a week, those songs pile up quickly for the next album!
So, don’t be afraid to write a bad song. In fact- write lots and lots of bad songs! You’ll become a much better writer if you do.