The Song as Milepost

On occasion, the question arises: how many artists out there are obsessive/compulsive? Dwelling on words, repetition–looping thoughts constantly, refining, worrying–they factor into the act of listening, the act of creating or editing. Is there a difference between the artist and the general population? Other fields? Freud, I seem to remember, had a few thoughts about that. Maybe he had a point.

Recently, a co-writer called me a perfectionist. It may have been a compliment. Maybe it was solely an observation not intended to impart a mean judgment, a destructive criticism. I do believe that perfectionism has a part in the artistic process, as an overall aesthetic as well as an editing tool. Do we have any idea what flawless is? We’ve got the word, but does it exist? We evaluate and accuse art of being beyond improvement. In my view, art itself, even in the moment of creation, is perfect–but in some way we can improve on it, until we have the sense to leave it alone.

The Nashville way is, in large part, the way of the co-writer. It brings advantages as it affords songs more opportunities to be heard professionally, pitched. It brings collaborators together for the aim of achieving that perfection, going beyond what a solo writer may do, especially if they are only lyricists or composers, or if they have not felt they could finish the job via their own editing process.

Co-writing is a big part of what I do as a songwriter, but the Nashville way has pulled me a bit too much from my solo work. It’s a two-way street in my opinion: co-writing can make you a better individual writer, and solo writing will help you bring more to a collaboration. All assuming, of course, that it leads to your further opening your mind and heart.

I recently decided to recommit to getting solo write time in. It, just a few days ago, yielded a new one that I’m pretty excited about (the internal buzzkill critic says, “but don’t get too excited, dude, it’ll set you up for disappointment.”). In reviewing the song, editing it, and maybe displaying a little bit of the obsessive/compulsive, I have come to see the song as a milepost.

Hey, if I see it as that, that’s what it is. We’ll see what happens as I share it with different audiences. On to the next!

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