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Q & A - How can I quit being such a perfectionist and just WRITE?
By Mary Dawson - 01/19/2004 - 02:46 PM EST

Hello Mary. I'm 14 from Toronto and I am a perfectionist about the things that are important to me (I believe we are all perfectionists about the things that are importent to us) and unfortunatly this creates a huge problem for me when I try to write. It's really hard to get what I'm feeling or thinking out on paper because as soon as I start, it just isn't "good enough!" I get frustrated because it never seems to be original or song-y to me, so I huff and puff and feel totally down. It creates writer's block too. Each time I almost pressure myself into trying to write a "hit" song instead of just writing a song that I MYSELF can be pleased with. Do you have any advice on how to get over this? Maybe some encouragment? Also, do you have any ideas of how to expand my vocabulary ( lol ) ? I tend to use the same boring words that you hear a million times a day over and over again. Ok, thank you very much for reading this and hope you're having a swell day! ttyl -- Leeza

Hi Leeza:

Thanks so much for your email. You sound like a very motivated and talented young lady.

I would like to refer you to several of my articles on developing a song which have been posted on the Muses Muse. They are listed sort of in reverse order under my column heading -- the first one in the series is "The Great Idea" ....and the articles continue (upward) through "Finishing Touches." In particular, I would like to refer you to the article on "Freeflow" which may help you to break through your "perfectionist block."

The important thing with freeflow is to let your creativity just start coming....without any consideration to vocabulary or meter. Just practice writing every thought that comes into your mind as you think about the idea for your song. No matter how absurd or cheesy the words are that come to your mind....write them down. In fact, some of the most off-the-wall words may end up being the best. Once you have filled at least a couple of legal pad pages with "freeflow," then you can start organizing the words and choosing the ones you think are most interesting. Some words will give rise to unexpected rhymes and directions for your lyrics and you will be surprised at the new ideas
you come up with.

Another great way to break through the "perfectionist block" is to co-write with someone else. While it may seem intimidating for someone who is hard on herself anyway to write with another person, it can
really be helpful in just getting your creative juices flowing. Your co-writer will actually love some of the ideas that you think are horrible and probably will not like some of what you think is brilliant. Just the exchange -- the push and pull of co-writing -- will help you to realize that no idea is too weird to be considered.

As far as expanding your vocabulary is concerned, nothing beats reading great literature. Most of the greatest songwriters I know are also very avid readers. Get on a schedule where you make yourself read -- fiction, non-fiction and especially poetry. But be choosy about what you read....choose award-winning authors who are masters of word crafting. When you encounter a great word that conveys a wonderful thought, jot it down in a little notebook. It will come in handy when you start to write
your songs.

Basically, a great songwriter is a "word junky" -- addicted to the love of words and vocabulary. Don't just "look for words for your song." Get LOST in the love of discovering new words. As you do, you will be storing lots of raw material in your memory bank for your own writing.

I hope this helps. All the best to you. Please stay in touch and let me know how it's going.

-- Mary Dawson

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