Things Every Songwriter Should Know
  ...from the Pros Who've Done it.

Rule #1 for Songwriters: Follow Your Heart

Written By: Kenny Loggins

“Intuition is soul guidance, appearing naturally in man during those instances when his mind is calm… calm the mind, that without distortion it may hear the infallible counsel of the Inner Voice.”

~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Last night in New York City, I was given my first ever “Lifetime Achievement Award,” thanks to the generosity of the T.J. Martell Foundation. I say “my first” because I suspect that’s how showbiz works. You hang around long enough, you do your job well, and the charities will want/need to award you in order to raise money for their cause.

As I see it, it’s a fair “give n take” for the privilege of making music for a living all my life. And it’s another way for artists to help out the charities. Just to be clear here, I am very appreciative of the honor. And my family will treasure this particular award long after I’m gone.

Start from the heart.

In the process of thinking about something appropriate to say at the dinner, I spent a couple of weeks just writing down ideas to consider for my acceptance speech. As it turned out, when the moment came for me to give “my speech,” I simply spoke from the heart, appreciated the moment, and felt proud and privileged to get to share such a profound experience with my daughter, Bella, and a few dear, good friends, including her mother and step-father.

When I was only 19, it was my good fortune to know a wise fellow musician-friend named Jeremy Stuart, who gave me a few tips that stuck with me all these years:

How to follow your heart (and create success from it)

1. Don’t follow. Lead.

Arguably the most important thing he ever taught me. If you can create your own market, you set the trend and own that market, thus raising the potential for longevity in your chosen field. Seems simple, but it’s not.

Admittedly, some aspects of that goal depend upon a bit of luck, but I think the secret to how to actually DO that is summed up in another popular phrase Jeremy used to love to say, “Follow your heart.” What a deceptively simple-sounding concept that is actually incredibly difficult to learn and practice.

2. Get in touch with your heart.

In order to connect with your heart, you have to learn how to hear it. Then you have to be willing to trust those subtle messages, even though they may seem (almost always) a bit crazy. Then you have to be courageous enough to actually take action on those messages.

3. Take action on intuition – exercise creativity.

Over the years I have come to believe that taking action on an intuitive, creative inner message is like making a deal with Creativity itself. The more I am willing to trust my heart, my creative inner voice, the more It’s willing to trust me and thus communicate more with me.

Sounds kind’a crazy, I suppose, but it seems to work for me. For some reason, Creativity is like a muscle that needs to be constantly flexed. I think of it as “a spiritual practice,” a deal I make with my inner muse. Why not?

Stephen King once said he has to write every day, or he starts to dry up, to go crazy with the self repression and the self-defeating inner dialogues. (He would say that, I expect, seeing as it’s Stephen-frickin-King!)

4. Warning: Don’t let your mind take control.

A word of warning to those of you just starting out on the Heart Driven Path: The first thing the mind will want to do is get itself back in charge of your world, so in the throws of a creative flash, you may find yourself thinking, “Oh, I’m sure someone already thought of that,” well.., I’d consider that thought actually as a clue that I’m onto something.

So, take a beat…then take a good look at what just came through, and simply humor yourself for a minute. Look to see what about that idea is fresh, different, maybe even possible. Don’t dismiss it till you’ve given it a moment to hatch. “Don’t kill it in the cradle,” as my great songwriter/friend, David Foster, used to say.

5. Prioritize the heart’s creativity and intuition over the mind’s logic and control.

For some reason, the mind and the heart have been waging a centuries old battle that continues to this day within each of us, and whenever I start to get close to a fresh spark, my mind will often attempt to extinguish that spark, almost as a knee-jerk reaction.

I think the nature of “the mind” is essentially to protect us from harm, and thus I suspect it trained itself, centuries ago to “protect us” from being different. Even though it’s not really needed in that capacity anymore, (at least in most of he United States), the mind is still busy doing it’s designated job of “keeping us safe.” “Don’t break from the herd. Don’t stand out or someone will try to knock you down,” is its primary directive. I suspect this is “natural selection” at work, survival of the fittest in a bit of a worn-out wrapper. (Truth be told, some cultures are still run by that axiom, and ingenuity can be almost eliminated by it.)

Craziness required.

I believe the artists and inventors of the world are celebrated primarily for their ability, their willingness to reinvent the wheel, and the really good ones strive to be different. The more you are not contained inside that box, the more creative you can be. But it takes vision and courage to escape, and maybe a little craziness too.

In my case, I confess, it has always been my biggest challenge. Yet I’d say my “formal education” on how to hear my heart came from a teacher I met in my early 30’s, and following it has been getting progressively more “second nature” ever since then. In that way, I have slowly, inadvertently, found ways to reinvent myself. Just by following what feels good, and letting my voice, the one who sings, express that feeling.

Looking back, I was lucky that I always had a very powerful inner spirit that took charge of my destiny, even when I might have wished I could be someone else. Most writers will tell you that when they did do their best work, it felt as if someone else was doing the writing. We often hear about a songwriter sitting back after creating something really good, and saying, “Did I do that?” That’s what I’m talking about. I think the Ancients called that ephemeral spark the “Muse.” I believe it to be an inner voice that, when we are at our best, sidesteps the self-critical mind and takes over the task at hand.

I call it ”the heart” or “spirit.”

You may call it whatever you like, but I’m willing to bet money, if you’ve got the gift, you’ve felt the feeling.

Have you been listening to your head or your heart? What’s been your greatest career challenge? Please share in the comments below.

If you haven’t already, check out:

The Story of How The Theme from S.W.A.T. Came to be – click here
7 Tips on How to Record a Demo That Gets Results – click here
7 Places you Should be Sending Your Songs to – click here

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34 Responses to “Rule #1 for Songwriters: Follow Your Heart”

  1. David Ayers says:

    Barry,

    Congratulations on your award and I hope you have many more. Met you years ago in L.A. at the ASCAP seminar. I immediately bought Master Writer and I tell everyone songwriter I meet they need to have it. It is the greatest tool “ANY WRITER” needs. I credit a lot of my song success to Master Writer.

    I agree write from your heart, that’s why my publishing company name is,”All Songs From The Heart”. Although I have had limited success I have met with major Nashville management groups that have wanted to launch new artist with some of my songs, even had several major artist show interest in a cut. I always try to write from the heart and feel several songs I’ve written have given hope to a lot of people for different causes. That in it’s self is reward enough and as a writer I feel successful. My songs have been covered by CNN,Fox News,Cox News, Washington Post, Albany Times and many national and International news and magazines. My co-writer and I have also been mentioned on the Congressional House Floor with a quote from one of our songs to get support for a House Bill.

    Thanks for your articles and for Master Writer. GOD bless and wishes for continued success.
    David Ayers

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your compliments, I’m so pleased that MasterWriter is working for you. I’d like to point out that the post was written by Kenny Loggins who has had great success following his heart. Good luck.

      Barry

  2. Hi Barry,

    Brilliant!
    I met you briefly at the Taxi Road Rally a couple weeks ago.
    When I first saw a demo of Masterwriter I was sold in about 30 seconds.
    You were not at the booth at the time, but the young gentleman performing the demo did a great job with his presentation…….obviously :)
    I swung by your booth at a later time and fortunately you were there and I had the pleasure of meeting you.
    I just would like to say that I think you are genius and that it was an honor to meet you.
    Its not everyday that one gets to meet such great mind!
    I have just installed Masterwriter and I look forward to using it!

    I just want to express my gratitude and say thank you for providing such an exceptional tool for us songwriters.
    You are an amazing person and you should super proud of yourself.
    Once again, Thank you!

    Sincerely,

    Nick Bukuvalas

    • admin says:

      You’ve got me blushing, thank you for all the kind words and compliments, I’ll try to live up to them. Good luck in your career and I hope MasterWriter helps.

      Barry

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