Snip! Why Editing your Songwriting is Essential
A Guest Post by Songwriting Scene
In my daily, money-making life, I am afreelance copywriter and editor, crafting marketing materials for corporate entities in the business-to-business world…YAWN…ZZZZZ. Yes, I know. It’s not as scintillating as songwriting.
I do dig my day job, though, most of the time (especially when those checks arrive). One of my favorite tasks is editing — either my own or someone else’s writing. Believe it or not, it can be quite a Zen experience to take an unwieldy piece and whittle it down, removing unnecessary rambling, excessive verbiage and repetitive words or sentences.
A few of my own, occasionally rambling, thoughts about why editing your songwriting is essential:
You Can’t Put Everything in the Lifeboat
The other day, I re-read a post I published a couple of years back, a “Songwriting Manifesto” written by the late singer-songwriter Jack Hardy. In it, he has some great “deep” thoughts about editing your songwriting:
“The first step of editing is to get out anything that is bad writing. The second step is harder to learn: You have to get out even the good writing if it does not serve the point. It is difficult. The lifeboat is leaving. There are too many people for it. They are all good and deserving people. But if they all go in the lifeboat, it will sink!”
Wrap Your Songwriting Gift Impeccably
I’m a terrible gift-wrapper, but I like blogger Akshat Rathi’s description of editing your writing – he compares it to wrapping a beautiful gift carefully and thoughtfully, creating a wonderful presentation for the recipient. In the case of your song, of course, how you present it as a piece of written work can make a big difference:
“What do you think of a gift that comes impeccably wrapped? Even before you open it, you have in your mind the assumption that the giver must have really cared about giving this to you. Why else would they have gone to the trouble of using a good wrapping paper, cutting the edges with scissors and sticking tape in the right places? Suddenly, the contents of the gift will seem to be much better than if you had received the same thing in a badly wrapped version of the gift. That is the same feeling that a person has when they read a flawless piece of writing compared to one that has many mistakes. The contents of the writing might be the same but the way it is presented makes a big difference.”
Don’t Edit Your Process, Just the Finished Product
One big mistake writers make, though, is getting frozen creatively because of pre-editing fright. If you know you’re going to have to edit, it can be hard to just let a first draft flow. After all, why not just try and make it perfect the first time around?
But creative writing, or even craft-type writing like the marketing pieces I work on, doesn’t work like that. You have to let everything just come out as it may and then you can get out your “scissors” and snip away.
That’s the great thing about editing, though. You can always edit. You can always snip a bit here and there and tighten things up. What’s harder, really, is coming up with creative ideas in the first place.
So let those lyrics grow and bloom — once they’re out in the world, you can give them a trim. You’d be surprised how they clean up real nice.
Songwriting Scene is a blog founded by New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Sharon Goldman, written for songwriters about songwriting — including tips, interviews, inspiration and thoughts about the creative process.