In our weekly Artist Development workshops, we provide young artists access to learning resources, industry expert insights and tips to help the next generation of artists explore and amplify their voices. For our latest “Songwriting Workshop” our summer Digital Marketing Intern, Claire Davis, who currently attends Berklee College of Music , provides an overview of the workshop from the perspective of a young artist, where she shares some of her takeaways.
As artists and writers, we often draw inspiration from the world around us in order to create our art, so what happens when the world around us is seemingly at a standstill? We (virtually) sat down last week in our Music Forward Artist Development Workshop on Songwriting with award-winning Artist/Producer Cesar Alan – who has worked with big names like Kanye West, 50 Cent, and Tyrese – to gain insight into his songwriting process, and how he approaches and conquers writer’s block.
Here are some of Cesar’s nuggets of wisdom that I picked up from the workshop:
“Writer’s Block is an Illusion”
Cesar kicked off the workshop with this bold statement, elaborating that the idea of writer’s block is all in your head. In order to get over writer’s block, one must first be open to the idea of inspiration not looking or feeling only a certain way, but that inspiration can come in many forms. With this change in mindset, the world of possibilities from which you can draw inspiration is endless. Instead of viewing your circumstances as a lack of inspiration, embrace the lull and view the void as the inspiration itself. Although that may be easier said than done, like all good things, this skill takes practice. Think of all the places you may have previously thought of as creative dead-zones.
It made me think, where will we welcome the void next? What does it mean for each of us? Does it mean journaling while waiting at the airport gate? In line at the grocery store? The waiting room of the doctors office? At home on the couch?
“We’re All Walking Stories”
Cesar’s next nugget of wisdom implored us all to view ourselves and each other as walking-talking stories. When you run out of ideas, try seeing things from the perspective of someone else! You may open up a whole other world of possibilities for your writing.
“Documentation Over Perfection”
Cesar surely spoke for all of us artists when he shared about his battle with perfectionism, and the constant struggle between wanting to share your work, and not wanting anyone to hear your songs until they are just perfect. The reality is: to us, our songs will almost never feel perfect. We will always want to tweak and edit and adjust as we ourselves grow and learn. But that shouldn’t stop us from sharing our songs with the world. The world deserves to hear what you’ve got to say, and an imperfect song is what makes us authentic and human!
“Authenticity Cannot Be Dated”
Piggybacking off of the last tip, when you write a song from the heart that is authentic to who you are, it cannot be dated. Why are the songs people loved 50 years ago still popular today?
Why is it that we know all the words to “My Girl”, or “Isn’t She Lovely”? Because these songs express emotions that are relatable and authentic to nearly every person on the planet! The fact is, any emotion you are feeling has been felt before by generations of people, and will be felt by generations to come. A song that can express an authentic human feeling and emotion will never grow outdated.
“Acknowledge Your Value, And Others Will Catch On”
As a final nugget of wisdom, Cesar shared with us the importance of being proud of your process. As artists, we have a tendency to undersell ourselves and our work, but if we don’t even appreciate our own value, how do we expect others to value our work? Be proud of the things you are creating and the work you are putting into your craft. Don’t be afraid to share it with the world as the world will learn to appreciate it too.
In conclusion, I think it’s fair to say last week’s Artist Development workshop had something in it for every artist, no matter how fresh or well-seasoned. There are always more things to learn and more ways to grow and improve our own songwriting and artistry, and Cesar certainly shone a light on many ways that we can continue to do so. Despite being cooped up with a lack of inspiration, this may in reality just be a new form of inspiration.
Stay tuned for exciting program updates for the back-to-school season this fall!
Claire Davis is a current Music Forward intern. She is a senior at Berklee College of Music, pursuing a Professional Music Degree as a bass player. As a performing musician and artist herself, Claire is excited to be a part of the Music Forward team to assist in building the careers of the future generation of the music industry. Aside from music, she is passionate about visual art and digital marketing.