You know what's difficult for me? Finishing songs.
It's agonizing for me to declare a song "done" if there's still a possibility that it could be better. It could always improve. It could always change.
But there comes a time when you have to finish.
There's more at stake in your creative projects than you may realize. Your creativity, your art, your work is what sets inspiration into motion.
Throughout my life I've been inspired by artists, musicians and writers who could have made the decision to stall and never finish. Influence belongs to those who step out and make something happen.
Good intentions don't change the world. Dreams don't make a difference unless they're put on a deadline.
This is the very reason why so many people have loads of song ideas but no actual songs. Maybe you're one of them. I'll be the first to confess.
I use Evernote to capture ideas and, to be honest, I'm not sure I'll ever finish all those ideas. But I'm becoming more intentional about finishing.
5 Tips for Finishing Songs
Maybe you're not a songwriter. Whatever it is you do, these tips will help move your creative project a little further down to the finish line.
1. Set a deadline. A self imposed, private deadline is OK. Even better? Set a date and include others in the process. The pressure of having to deliver something to someone works wonders. Recently, I scheduled a new worship song I was writing for a weekend a few weeks ahead. I didn't think I would finish it but the pressure of the deadline helped me to push the song further, faster, even though I was still working on it right before rehearsal.
2. Study other writers. What are the songs that you love? I want you to make a list of three to five of those songs and write down why you love them. Then take that list and apply them to your own songs. Of course, you're not copying. You're simply applying a framework you like. You're learning a vocabulary you've never used before. It will help your writing to expand into new territories.
I love Matt Redman's songwriting. I study his songs when I'm stuck. Try it. When you're struggling to finish, noticing what others have done may be just what you need.
3. Make it simpler. Not many writers are in danger of songs being too simple. Most of the time, we add filler and fluff that doesn't need to be there. Maybe we're trying to sound profound. Maybe we just naturally describe more than is needed. Before you finish your song, intentionally simplify. Shorten your phrases. Create more space in your lines. Make it easier to enunciate and sing. And remember, simpler doesn't have to mean shallow. Profound truth can be expressed in simple ways. It's better that way.
4. Get feedback. As we were writing for the album Undying Love, I remember there was a song fragment I had shared with the team. In my mind, it wasn't even close to being finished, and I didn't even consider placing it on the album. One of my team members came up to me a couple weeks later and mentioned how he couldn't get that song out of his head. It was his favorite. That feedback gave me the necessary motivation to finish the song, and it has become a favorite on the album. You'll never wish you hadn't gotten feedback on a song, whether good or bad. It always helps to push your writing in new directions.
5. Test it. It's tough to know if your song is headed in the right direction without testing it. As soon as possible, start to sing your song (even if it's a fragment) with your church in low-pressure situations. Sing it in small groups, the closing of service or as part of a medley with a familiar song. See how people respond. See where they disengage. Real time feedback is the best.
What about you? What mindset is getting in the way of you crossing the finish line?
What holds you back from completing creative work? Share your story in the comments section.
David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit davidsantistevan.com.
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