If you hang out with other songwriters, sooner or later the suggestion to co-write will come up. This fascination with co-writing used to completely mystify me, and repel me all at once. My friends would take on a soft, rosy glow as they spoke of it. They would get all dewy-eyed and clutch their hearts and speak of how it changed their lives. But it felt contrary to my process and my instincts. I wanted nothing to do with it!
I’ve co-written a couple of times at workshops, and it was hard for me. I’m stubborn and I always want to use the lines I write. I am not the queen of compromise. But I’ve been feeling like maybe I should try it more, because I think trying things that are outside of my comfort zone can help me grow as an artist.
My process for writing is normally very unstructured. Picture someone sitting in their jammies, guitar in hand, laptop open. When I’m working on a song lyric, I usually get to a point where I am stuck. I might have to get up and walk around for a while, and disconnect from it until a line mystically travels through several distant galaxies and breaks through the ozone to trickle down into my head. YES! I have always been willing to wait days, weeks, months – YEARS for the right word or line to take its rightful place in a song.
But when you co-write, such a process will not do. It will not do at all. Instead, one must employ discipline (ugh, hateful word). Discipline! Pah! I am a gypsy! A wood nymph! A forest sprite! I dance through the woods, gathering my words on gossamer pages! I cannot be shackled or fettered, or tied down to such a restricting practice!
Co-writing – I have discovered – is not for sissies. In addition to discipline, it requires immense courage. You’re vulnerable. It’s scary to go out on a limb with a line, knowing that someone can whip out their chainsaw and cut it off, sending you crashing to the ground. And for me, it’s hard to be diplomatic and nice and not grab my own chainsaw too often.
More importantly, it takes practice. If you want to get better at it, you have to keep working at it, keep trying. I just completed a co-write on one of the songs for my CD project. It didn’t feel natural. I had to struggle. I had to wear my regular clothes and not my pajamas. But I hung in there, and the song is going to be better for it – a stronger song. And THAT is the best reason to consider a co-write.