I freely admit it, I was one of those angsty teens who wrote bad poetry to express all my big feelings. I also wore a lot of black, but that’s not relevant here. What kind of surprises me about myself is that, despite having taken piano for years, learned various other instruments and sung in choirs since I was in single digits age-wise, it wasn’t until last year that I put some not-bad (not-great) poetry to music and wrote a song. It was inspired by my wife and it must have been beginner’s luck, because I’ve not been able to replicate that success.
This is a long preamble to why I was excited when award-winning songwriter and music consultant Molly Leikin emailed that she had a new book out: Insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting in the Digital Age (Permuted Press). While it’s too soon to say whether it will help me write another song, I did find it informative, easy to read – Leikin has a great sense of humour – and full of practical advice. I’ve just been too busy to do many of the myriad exercises and put in the time necessary to hone any skills.
There is a whole chapter on making the time to write, as well as how to quiet the inner critic, who often stops creative-aspiring people dead in their tracks. Other chapters focus on writing lyrics, composing a melody, picking a strong song title, working with a writing partner, overcoming writer’s block and other aspects of the process. There are also chapters on what needs to be done to get a song published, what royalties are, and what types of jobs you might be able to do to sustain yourself until your music can. Interspersed between the how and what chapters are interviews Leikin has conducted with some of her peers, other songwriters, producers and industry professionals.
Insider Secrets is targeted at writers who want to get into the business. And whether one succeeds at that is as much hard work as it is talent, probably more. One great aspect of Leikin’s approach is that she believes in being kind to oneself, so offers several ideas for how to reward yourself when you do put in the hard work.
“Whatever you do,” she writes, “make a point of acknowledging that you’re doing it as a reward for what you’ve just created. It is a victory in itself, just because you did it, not because your song was downloaded 10 million times. The victory starts with you.”
Ultimately, Leikin says, it comes down to persistence. It is also crucial to understand that a creative life is not a straight path, but an up-and-down one, and you have to learn how to navigate the challenges.
“A writer’s job is to write,” states Leikin. “If you do that, keep raising the level of your craft and write your fingerprint, and hustle your hustle, someday, the world will know your work. But until then, I want you to feel in your bones that you have the magic to go the distance. No Grammy can give that to you. Honestly, you have to give it to yourself, every day, all day, for the rest of your life.”
To purchase the book and for more information on Leikin, visit songmd.com.