Recently, one of my viewers left this question under one of my YouTube videos called “3 REASONS YOU CAN’T FINISH YOUR SONGS ” , and it inspired me to create a video to try to give advice on the topic as best as I could.
“Sometimes I find that I get stuck on a certain part of the song because I end up overthinking it so much that I want to give up because it seems too forced. Any advice on that?” – Anvy
1. Set some limits & deadlines
More freedom doesn’t necessarily means more creativity, and that’s something I took a while to understand.
Why is it that in school we could finish our homework on time but yet today you have a thousand songs started but never finished? What is the difference between the things you manage to actually accomplish and the ones you don’t?
If you set yourself an infinite amount of time to write a song, you’ll take an infinite amount of time to finish them as well. One thing that I do is I like to try to sketch down my songs in about an hour or so, which means I will have to focus on the essential: structure, lyrics, harmony & melodies. One hour doesn’t leave me enough time to overthink the song, I just need to have something, and only then I can judge whether it’s worth keeping to work on or trashing. In about an hour. I should be able to have a general idea of where that song will be going and whether I like it or not.
I think when we don’t set ourselves that sort of limit when it comes to writing, it’s easy to loose track of what’s important. If you start refining the arrangements for your verse before you even wrote your chorus, it doesn’t make sense. How do you know if the song is even having potential at that point if you don’t already have the base elements there?
In my own experience, the projects I have been able to finish are the ones I had been giving myself limits for. The biggest one is time because it forces you to focus on the essentials, but it can also limits to the content like a prompt. The art of being creative is the art of problem solving. If you don’t have problems to solve then how much can you really be creative?
2. The “perfect song” doesn’t exist
The truth is: you could work on your songs indefinitely and always find something you would be able to make better. Letting go of wanting it to be perfect and allowing it to be just part of your journey as a musician will help you tremendously with not overthinking your songs so much.
You’ll never find that “perfect version” that you’re looking for, you’ll never really be done unless you give yourself permission to be. Treat your songs as if they were snapshots of who you are at that specific moment in time and embrace the imperfection. Don’t try to be the person you want to be, just be who you are at that very moment, and let your music get better with time. They say “better done than perfect”, statement behind which I stand. You might find yourself hating your songs a couple year after, but that’s a lot better than not having done anything from fear it wouldn’t be perfect enough. It will only mean you’ve gained experience and got better at your craft.
3. Write music you can make
I’ve done that mistake in the past and have been writing a ton of music I didn’t have the means to either perform or record… which is fine… if you don’t intend to do any of those! Only, if your goal is to publish your music at some point, write music you can actually afford to produce! If you need to hire 30 musicians for the parts and you do not have the resources, maybe find cheaper options or write music that is simpler. If you’re looking to write music you can perform live in open bars, then definitely write music you are able to perform in that context!
That one goes a bit hand in hand with the “setting yourself some limits”. It’s so easy to get carried away and write music for a whole orchestra on Musescore, but and that’s completely fine, but always keep in mind your goal and write music that’s withing your means! If you wish to record it, make sure you can record it. If you wish to publish it, make sure you have the right to do so. If you want to perform it, make sure it’s within your skills level.
In order to not overthink your songs, I believe letting go of perfection, setting yourself some limits & always writing within your means will definitely help you not get stuck. Also, don’t keep working on that one song forever if you see it doesn’t work.
Just write it, record it, and then go to the next one.
In case you want to check it out, I have created a YouTube video about this matter, which is some of my raw thoughts about how to stop overthinking your songs.. I release that type of video on my channel on a regular basis, so if you have questions about songwriting or music, make sure ask me there and I’ll do my best to answer!