An Encouragement for Beginner Songwriters

April 19, 2023 |

You may not be great now, and you may not be even close to where you want to be. Don’t be discouraged. Remind yourself that you are on your way to becoming the artist you want to be. 


Odds are, you start writing songs because you love songs. While listening to music, a clever lyric jumps out that you wish you would’ve written. A melody is stuck in your head for days on end that you wish was yours. A chord progression sounds new, unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. 

You probably weren’t inspired to start songwriting by some mediocre music you only kind of remember. You’re thinking of the best songs ever when you start to write your own. The issue is, when you start, you’re probably not that good. How do you keep going, when a “great song” seems so out of reach?

Close The Gap

You get into creative work because you have good taste. However, when you start out, your skills don’t match up to your taste. You have a high bar for what you’re trying to do, but what you’re making seems to miss the mark. This is described as “the gap,” which I learned from a video narrated by Ira Glass ( 

When I first heard this concept, it deeply resonated with me. I remembered all of the years of frustration and disappointment when I started out as a songwriter. That initial gap between my skill and my taste was so disheartening, and most creatives don’t overcome it. We tend to give up before we develop something good.

So how do you close the gap? By doing a lot of work. Write a lot of songs! I remember it was years before I wrote something that I actually liked and wanted to genuinely listen to. It’s going to take a while to develop your skills to the level of your taste, but there’s no other way. There’s no shortcut. Do the work. Close the gap. Keep going until it’s good.

The Best Fertilizer

When you’re starting out (and even when you think you’re well established), you’re going to write a lot of bad songs. They’ll be full of cliches, overused chord progressions, and inconsistent structures. Do you want to know a secret? “Crappy” songs make the best fertilizer. It’s kind of a crude metaphor, but it really is encouraging and true. 

As you’re closing the gap in your creative work, all of those “bad” songs are fertilizing the ground. You’re developing your craft, so that one day, when a great song sprouts up, you’ll be ready to write and finish it. The hardest part of songwriting is finishing a song. Keep finishing them, even the bad ones. You’re preparing the soil for the one you’ve been waiting for.

“I’m On My Way”

The solution seems simple because it is. “Keep going.” That’s basically it. But how do you actually keep going

Scott Erickson is an artist, author, and performer who seeks to cultivate spiritual thought and encourage creatives. One of the principles from his live art show is to remind yourself that “I’m on my way.” Whenever he has felt like a terrible artist, he’s taught himself to literally say “I’m on my way.” 

This song is so bad, I should’ve never started it…I’m on my way. How am I ever going to write a song like (insert successful songwriter you’re comparing yourself to)...I’m on my way. I’m never going to be a good songwriter…I’m on my way.

You may not be great now, and you may not be even close to where you want to be. Don’t be discouraged. Remind yourself that you are on your way to becoming the artist you want to be. 

Be kind to yourself, you’re on your way.


There’s a lot of more practical songwriting advice I could’ve written about, like rhyming structure, syllable counts, thematic development, etc. But in order to last, I think the right mindset is more important. There are a thousand things every day that oppose creative output - distractions, comforts, false-narratives, insecurities. It is difficult to even just sit down, and start some type of creative work. But if you close the gap by writing a lot of bad songs, you’re on your way to becoming a better songwriter.

John Marc Kohl

John Marc is a worship leader, songwriter, and musician dedicated to glorifying God through creativity. From being on staff at a few churches, to supporting other artists and ministries, John Marc has always loved to lead others to connect with Jesus through worship. As a result of releasing music in different genres, he also realizes the need for worship music to be as creative and as beautiful as Jesus is. John Marc and his wife Lila live in Dallas, TX.