Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Artists


Pretty much every musician I know has had moments where they’ve felt discouraged by the talent or success of another artist. I am very guilty of this, and at times have even considered giving up completely when it’s seemed like others are getting it all handed to them, while I have to wake up every morning and actively think of new and innovative ways to further my career. It took me a while to learn that this is an extremely non-beneficial mindset, which stifles creativity and motivation – the very things most artists need more of!

Here are a few reasons why it’s not a good idea to compare yourself to other artists:

They’re not necessarily showing you the whole truth. Remember, unless someone is your sibling/spouse/best friend, chances are they’re only showing you their best side. What looks like a magical lucky break could well be the eventual result of lots of hard work, perseverance, long gigs, nights spent on the computer, etc. Success doesn’t usually just fall in people’s laps, so if a fellow artist is experiencing success, they probably worked pretty hard for it. What’s more, if you continue to work hard then there’s no reason why you can’t experience similar success.

They’re probably comparing themselves to you too. If they know of your existence, they’re probably observing your career with equal scrutiny and comparing their successes to your own. If you’re smart, you’re not frequently alerting your followers to all your failures and rejections, so you too are presenting your best side, which probably looks much more enviable to other artists than you think it does.

Your art is your art, and their art is their art. Sure, it’s hard not to get jealous when we discover or meet artists who do something similar to us, but do it (in our estimation) better. It’s also hard to watch other artists experience greater levels of success than us when we think they’re not even as good as we are. But really, it’s dangerous to use words like “better” or “worse” when it comes to art. Art is completely subjective, and no two artists share the exact same artistic vision. So rather than losing your cool over how good or bad someone else’s art is, pour that energy into continually developing and honing your own. There’s no need to let somebody else’s creative expression throw you into the depths of insecurity.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great to let other artists inspire and motivate you. And sometimes that motivation can come in the form of, “I love James Taylor’s guitar-playing! I’m going to practice every day so that I can learn how to play as well as he does.” There’s nothing wrong with that! But there’s a big difference between that and, “Ugh, I hate the fact that James Taylor can play guitar so much better than I can. I might as well quit now – I’m never going to be as good as him.” Don’t let the latter mindset inhibit your artistic growth! Allow yourself to be inspired by and appreciative of other people’s art and successes, and don’t compare it/them to your own. Doing so will just leave you feeling dejected, and will not make you a better artist.


Photo courtesy of Helga Weber

Be Slow To Take Offence


When you choose to make a living from regularly baring your soul to complete strangers (as well as family and friends), it can be extremely difficult to swallow “constructive” criticism regarding your art. But being easily offended cannot only damage important relationships (both professional and personal), it also hurts you. If you’re one of those people who is quick to take offence, and don’t work at becoming a bit more resilient, you risk spending your life feeling worthless, victimised, unloved and misunderstood. The good news is that you control your emotions – they don’t control you.

The first thing you have to realise is that not everyone is going to love what you do. That’s just life. Don’t let it steal your joy. If you write folk music and your classic-rock-loving friend isn’t in love with your latest song, don’t let it rock your boat.

Secondly, some people really are just trying to help. When your uncle tells you that you “should” do XYZ to become more successful, appreciate the fact that he’s trying to help, even if his advice is misguided. You may even find that it’s not as misguided as you think, if you take the time to properly listen.

I don’t speak from a place of ignorance. My producer, recording engineer and band-mate also happens to be my husband. He is very honest, and has no trouble saying what he thinks, if he feels it will benefit the overall product. In the past I would routinely storm off or cry if I felt that I was being criticised as a songwriter, singer or musician. Then I would get over myself and realise that he’s not being mean – he’s trying to help me make the best album possible. The opinions of others (particularly those who have a vested interest in you for one reason or another) can be very important and helpful.

Of course, non-constructive, “I-hate-you-and-your-music-and-everything-you-stand-for”-typed comments should be dismissed without a second thought – they’re not worth your time or energy. But next time a friend, family member, creative partner or fan offers some advice – or an opinion – that you don’t immediately love, don’t let it anger you. Know who you are as a person and as an artist, and don’t let the opinions of others shake your identity. You may well find you learn something really valuable when you don’t let your emotions interfere with your ability to hear.


Photo courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Five Ways To Get Inspired

It is common for songwriters to be asked where they find inspiration. Many aspiring songwriters become discouraged as they wonder how a 23-year-old Paul McCartney can write a song like Yesterday practically in his sleep (true story), whilst they struggle to scrape together a simple verse or melody.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about songwriting is to not wait for inspiration to come and hit me over the head. I actively seek it out. If you want to be inspired, you need to look for inspiration in the often mundane occurrences of day-to-day life. Choose to view everything as potential songwriting material.

Below are five ways to overcome the dreaded “writer’s block”:

1. Keep a journal. This is a great way to document significant events, emotions and epiphanies that can make for great songwriting material. If we don’t keep a record of these things, it can be easy to forget them as we continue moving forward with our busy lives. Keeping a journal can turn an abstract thought-process into something more concrete, allowing us to come back to the thought at our own convenience for further reflection. It also helps us to foster the habit of writing, which is vital for any songwriter.

2. Get out. It’s amazing what a simple change of scenery can do for making one feel inspired. If we sit at home all day, we are just not getting enough sensory input to push us into a creative mindset. So go for a walk, sit in a coffee shop, go somewhere you’ve never been before. Be on the lookout for inspiring things, and take note whenever you discover them (see below).

3. Carry a notebook. I rarely go anywhere without a notebook and a pen, and as a writer, neither should you. When I’m on a train, or sitting alone in a coffee shop, or in a doctor’s waiting room, I start scribbling. Sometimes I write random words, phrases, or proverbs. Other times, I’ll dimply doodle, or write down lyrics by other artists that I find inspiring. All of these things help to put me into a creative mindset. Carrying a notebook also means that I never miss an opportunity or let an inspiring moment go undocumented.

4. Listen to lots of music. It’s hard not to get inspired when you’re listening to great new music. Make a point of discovering new artists (and by that I mean new to you, not necessarily current) and listening to a wide variety of genres. If you can’t afford to buy records every week, visit NoiseTrade. There’s lots of fantastic music on there that you can download for free, and it’s totally legal! (Click here to download three of my own tracks, absolutely free.

5. Read. I believe that songs should tell a story. The best way to learn more about the art of story-telling is to read stories! Reading well-written books helps us to expand our vocabulary, and reading fiction stimulates the imagination. Books (both fiction and non-fiction) can provide us with a ready-made story or topic. There are countless songs that were written about/inspired by books. I aim to read at least one book a month, and advise you to do the same!

So there you have it – five active steps you can take to overcome writer’s block and find inspiration. Start implementing these things today and make them a habit! And be sure to send me all the beautiful songs you write as a result 😉


Free Blog Photos

Being Prolific VS Being Perfect

“Write 20 songs a day, throw 19 of them away.” – Bob Dylan.

I am not 100% sure of the accuracy of the above quote, but it is a philosophy that I repeatedly come back to in my creative life. I don’t know if Bob Dylan actualy wrote 20 songs a day (I wouldn’t put it past him), but I think the essence of what he is saying is this:


1. Don’t be too precious about your songs

Be willing to discard songs that aren’t great, or that you don’t love, or that are too similar to you’re other songs. It doesn’t make you less of a song-writer if you write the occasional sub-standard song (after all, Paul McCartney wrote “C Moon”). Just be willing to let it go.

2. Finish what you start

Don’t start out expecting to write the perfect song. That only paves the way for disappointment, which stifles creativity. Start out writing a song with the expectation of finishing a song. This mentality allows the song to take it’s course without the pressure that comes with striving for perfection. A finished song is better than an unfinished song, regardless of which has the better content.

3. Just keep writing

Of all the advice I’ve gleaned from other songwriters, this seems to be the most frequently repeated and stressed. The best way to write great songs, is to write lots of songs. Not only will your skills improve each time you write, but you’ll give yourself a much better chance of stumbling across that one gem of a song that you’ve been trying to capture. You’ll also learn how to write on demand or to a specification – skills which are invaluable to the professional song-writer. Following Dylan’s logic, if there is one diamond in every twenty stones, then you need to write 200 songs in order to have an album’s worth of top quality songs. Do you need any more reason to just keep writing?


Now, I suspect that Dylan’s message was not supposed to be taken literally, and perhaps 20 was a hyperbolic figure meant to make a point. But the gist his advice is something that all song-writers should take on board.


Stay creative,