My Sweet Spot

“Oh, you’re still doing that?” is a question that I get from certain people in my life regarding the years I have spent in pursuit of a songwriting career. It is not meant to be mean. Quite honestly, I think it comes from a place of cluelessness. Let me explain. Having a singular passion for the better part of my life, I always thought everyone experienced life the same way, and I just assumed that everyone had that one thing they knew they were meant to do. It has taken me a long time to realize it is simply not true. There are a great many folks out there who do not see life through one all-consuming lens. For those “other” people there is no sense in giving one’s energy, time, money, and whatever else it might cost, to pursue a dream for what is perceived as “nothing.” I don’t know which side of the fence you are on regarding this, but even if you are like me and can’t imagine life apart from your passion, a little self-reflection is a good idea every now and then, and I think there are a few questions the naysayers prompt us to ask. 

First, “Could I do anything else and be satisfied?” I firmly believe we are created beings, and as such I believe we each have unique abilities, inclinations, and purposes. I admit there are other things I could do. In fact, I have had opportunities in my life to use my abilities to add value to other kinds of work. Honestly, I have accomplished some cool things unrelated to music and songwriting. However, there is a big difference between the feeling I get from a job well done and the euphoria of a song well done. Let’s call it the “sweet spot.” It is the sense of home that can only be found in a place where passion meets accomplishment. Believe me, there is no feeling in the world quite like it. That feeling is enough to keep you going even when there is no other encouragement or reward for your efforts. This brings me to my second question… 

“Is it truly for nothing?” It is easy to be blinded by the things we value and assume that others value the same things. I think this is the case for those who cannot understand a lengthy pursuit of a dream. Does a passion have to result in monetary gain and recognition to be valid? Are there other rewards? I already mentioned the unsurpassable feeling of being in one’s sweet spot and how that would be enough reason to press on. Relationships are another important “reward” that I have covered in a previous blog. I will simply say that traveling alongside other human beings whose hearts beat for the same purpose as mine makes life richer and more complete. Add the extra blessing of the opportunity to teach and mentor those who are climbing the ladder behind me and you would be hard pressed to get me to give up those relationships for money, stability or even recognition. Another “reward” is knowledge. It has been said that when we stop growing, we start dying. No kind of growing is more enrapturing or relevant to me than learning about the craft of songwriting. In fact, it makes me feel alive. This brings me to the final question… 

“Is there more to learn?” I suppose I should not be surprised that some might think after 30 plus years pursuing a craft that there would simply be nothing left to learn. I guess the thought is, “If you haven’t learned it by now, you never will.” Call me crazy, but I hope I never stop getting better at songwriting. Part of the excitement of chasing a dream is the promise of improvement and seeing my own growth as a writer is one of the greatest encouragements to keep going. One other very important point to make about learning is this, at some point in the process you learn how to be a better learner. I feel as though the last five years, especially with my involvement with organizations like SongTown and NSAI as well as relationships with other writers, have taught me how to learn and that has moved me forward more quickly than ever before. 

So, what about monetary gain? Don’t get me wrong, I want to be paid for the years I’ve given to this passion, and at times I actually have derived an income from this crazy songwriting pursuit. It is definitely part of the goal. However, lack of financial success is just not enough to make me give up all the other rewards I enjoy in the sweet spot. And recognition? I will say it would be very difficult to never be praised. There is something innate in us that craves the occasional “that a boy!” I have been fortunate throughout my journey to have received enough positive feedback to know I am on the right track. Dealing with the negative feedback is one way we improve and expecting there will be both is realistic. Just today I received a glowing review on one song moments after a publisher ran through a list of the defects of another song. You have to take the bad with the good and grow from it.  All this to say, I have reasons for continuing to pour myself into my passion and I believe they are good reasons. So, I press on. At the time of writing this, I am beginning a national radio and marketing campaign on a Christmas song I wrote with an independent band, I am regularly co-writing and pitching songs to publishers and I am launching a new website. Why not? I love every minute of it all.  So, to those who ask, “Oh, you’re still doing that?” I answer unapologetically, “Yes, yes I am!”