No One Can Read Your Mind

mind readersAs songwriters, we have either lived through or fully imagined the story we are writing about. As we write, we are watching the whole movie in our mind. One of the most common mistakes that beginning songwriters make is failing to realize that the audience is not watching the same movie.


Supposing you hear the line, “I can’t believe what she did when he looked at her like that.” The writer might know that she is a woman with a lot of anger toward men and when a man in a bar gave her a friendly, innocent smile she threw a drink in his face. Or the writer might know that a homeless man scowled at a well-dressed woman and she gave him some money and said “God bless you.” But the listeners don’t know anything about what that line refers to unless the writer tells them.


The song might go on to talk about how life isn’t fair, or how you never know what makes people become the way that they are. Those comments can be applied to either story, but if listeners don’t have a story to apply them to the comments might not mean much.


If you have ever been to an open mic where beginning writers are performing, you have probably had the experience of being completely confused and having no idea what the writer is talking about. That makes it really hard to stay interested in the song. Performing songwriters can give an introduction that tells the story and let’s you appreciate the cleverness and emotion of the lyrics, but if a song is playing on the radio, or if someone downloads it, it doesn’t come with an introduction.
Even if you plan to perform your own songs, they are likely to reach more people if they stand on their own. They will certainly stand a better chance of getting cut. A great habit to get into is looking at your lyrics and asking yourself, “If I had no idea what this song was about, what would these words mean to me?”