Songwriting Success from Failing Harder

“If you want to get better at something, you have to do it everyday,” is Lindsay May‘s mantra.   Her bookshelves overflow with books on songwriting, the  music industry and self-improvement of many kinds.  She is clearly someone who is committed to improving herself and her craft.  This commitment recently brought her to Nashville where she wrote this guest blog, sharing her insights on embracing failure as a key to self-improvement.  As you read about her approach to songwriting and what she’s done, it’s clear her philosophy on failure is bringing her much success.  May it inspire you to approach your own self-improvement with such zeal and courage.

In Linday’s Words:

The single biggest thing for me now on my road to self-improvement as a songwriter is failure.  Fail harder.

I saw a great documentary called Art & Copy that really struck home for me.  If I’m not putting myself out there, trying, getting uncomfortable and failing… then I’m not growing.  And the best part is that the more frequently I fail, the better I seem to do.

To make all that happen, to ‘fail harder’ so to speak, a few things need to be happening for me.  I have to be:

  • Playing/performing regularly
  • Writing regularly
  • Entering contests/Applying to festivals
  • Getting feedback
  • Not taking things so personally as to get bitter or jaded
  • And of course, learning from my mistakes

It’s so easy to stay comfortable, play the rooms we always do, hang out with the people who validate us.  And while I completely need the regularity and support that can bring… it’s only when I DON’T get the things I want that I look at myself and my art.

Actually, there was one particular contest I really wanted to get into this year.  And I didn’t.  I was upset for several days.  I wanted to retreat to one of BC’s Gulf Islands and forget about this whole silly songwriting business.  But when I came out of discomfort, I looked at who did get into the contest vs. what I had submitted.  I learned a lot.   And while I’m not going to change who I am fundamentally to get into certain things, I do make a study of the artist’s who are succeeding.

I shouldn’t complain really, I’ve had a great year.  Performing on a Via Rail train from Vancouver to Toronto, arriving in time for my showcase at Toronto’s fantastic North by Northeast Festival.  Even as I write this, I’m looking at the window at the Socan House in Nashville, watching a baby chipmunk duck for cover from the freak rainstorm.

I’m here in Nashville playing writer’s nights, watching and learning from the beginners to the pro’s.   I’m here getting feedback on my songwriting.  I got up at an open mic last night and I had butterflies, or “Nashvillitis”!   It’s been a long time since that happened, but that’s exactly my point.

And so I head back to my quiet room and comfortable couch, surrounded by my guitar, laptop and rhyming dictionary and I try again.  With every failure, with every time I put myself out there – I stretch my comfort zone and interestingly enough, have a new set of eyes for the same things in my life.

I think failing and getting uncomfortable makes me a better writer and probably a better person.  In the whole process I dive deeper into myself, get to know myself in a fresh way and get better at being me.  And that’s the point of life isn’t it… to get better at being me.  Because at the end of the  day, all any songwriter can offer is their own unique take on life.  So fellow troubadours… get out there and fail harder 🙂

Lindsay May
New album coming out Fall 2011

For more information about Lindsay and to hear a sample of her songs:  Click Here to visit her Songwriters Association of Canada Profile.