Time and Place

As songwriters, we all want to write the song that everyone loves, don't we? I do. We feel this so keenly that we can be quite dismayed when, after we've played a song, no one says a thing about it. Worse, dealing with critique can be really disheartening, especially when that critique comes from people you love or respect.
Now, I am the first one to say that we need to be objective about our songs, and ready to 'tweak or trash' (that sounds like a title for a new blog…hmmm…stay tuned!) but I am not immune to the pangs of disappointment when one of my songs doesn't have the impact I desire. I've cried over it. I'm an artist, after all.

One of the things that helps me to keep critique in perspective is the idea of "time and place". I believe that some songs are given for a specific time and place - it may even be given just for you, or for a smaller community that you are connected to. In this sense, every song can have value.

A couple of weeks ago I felt inspired as I played my keyboard - you know, that goose-pimply, 'my heart is pouring out of me into a lyric and melody' kind of feeling? It was refreshing, as often that feeling comes only when I start the 'work' of writing, not as a catalyst for the work. I was scheduled to lead the music at my church, and had heard that one of the scriptures was to include the story of "Doubting Thomas". The song that arrived for me carried the theme "Help My Unbelief", and when I shared the lyric with my minister, he felt it would be a great piece to weave into the context of his sermon.

After the service was over, there was some definite encouragement, but one comment struck me. Someone shared with me that a couple of evenings prior, he had been struggling, and the phrase "Help my unbelief" had kept coming to mind. He'd thought to himself that our church really needed a song with those words.

Coincidence? I don't believe much in those. Whatever is to become of the song in the future, it had a time and a place to exist and have value…and, honestly, maybe that should be enough.

Several years ago I was at a conference in Colorado as a finalist in an international songwriting competition. The event spanned several days and included various workshops and opportunities to have your work critiqued. The judges used a point system that not only assessed the artistic nature of the song (originality etc) but also its commercial viability. Consequently, marks could be quite low.

On the third day, I noticed my roommate was nowhere to be seen. That evening, I was able to catch up with her, and found out she'd decided to leave the conference, that she felt she wasn't a good songwriter or meant to be there. When I gently nudged her for more information, I found out that she had a song assessed with a very low score. It really discouraged her, so she was deciding to quit.

Then she said, "I don't understand. I thought it was okay because my church won't let me stop playing it."

Bingo.

We were able to chat some more, and hopefully I convinced her that even though 'judges' didn't give her song high marks, it had value with her community.

Not all of us have the gift to write songs, and not all songs are going to be hits. In fact, many songs won't make it past the front door if you're writing a lot. It feels silly even writing these statements, because we all know this - clearly there are millions of songs in the world that go unheard. But just because your song isn't blazing a trail on the radio or anywhere else you deem important, doesn't mean it doesn't have value. Granted, it might just be an awful song (and we all write those from time to time) But if there are people that are connecting to it, even in small numbers, maybe it's just meant for them…and that's still quite special.

Stay open. Be humble. Keep writing.

Jaylene

 

1 comment

  • jerry dykman

    jerry dykman Morden

    Jaylene, you tell it like it is. Goosebumps are a great indicator, a lump in the throat another. Where does inspiration end and craft begin? karl Jung theorized the manifestations of the collective subconscious, where the deep truths come bubbling up, and the right words are said at precisely the right tiime to the right person. The impact is life-changing and uncanny. I believe that is the power of the Holy Spirit, so magnificent in the words of Jesus to whomever He related. Abolute truth. St. Paul wrote that those words can cleave soul from spirit. So keep on truckin'. By the way, ever hear the story in the Old Testament about fourteen cows?

    Jaylene, you tell it like it is. Goosebumps are a great indicator, a lump in the throat another. Where does inspiration end and craft begin?
    karl Jung theorized the manifestations of the collective subconscious, where the deep truths come bubbling up, and the right words are said at precisely the right tiime to the right person. The impact is life-changing and uncanny. I believe that is the power of the Holy Spirit, so magnificent in the words of Jesus to whomever He related. Abolute truth. St. Paul wrote that those words can cleave soul from spirit.
    So keep on truckin'. By the way, ever hear the story in the Old Testament about fourteen cows?

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