“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  – Mike Tyson

In my years as a creative professional, I’ve found that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” you’re going to hit a rough patch. The key, in my experience, is not trying to avoid these tough times but, rather, to learn to navigate them in such a way that you emerge on the other side stronger and wiser for the experience. Easier said than done, I know, but stay with me on this one…

Make a Plan

I think on some level we all enter the world of creativity with a mixture of blind optimism and unrealistic expectations. Both of these are, in their own way, essential. After all, who in their right mind would enter a career where the financial payoffs could be years – or even decades – down the road? The plans we all begin with are based on some combination of myth and dreams and yet they’re somehow enough to convince us we should give it a go.

Get Punched in the Mouth – Take 1

A few years into our creative pursuits, we begin to see the true shape of the road ahead. We now know the landscape, understand our place in it and, at the same time, we begin to see how far away we are from achieving our initial goals. This is, in equal parts, educational and completely demoralizing. This gut check moment tends to thin the herd of creative hopefuls by a significant amount.

Get Back Up and Make Another Plan

For those of us who still choose to continue, our process from this point on is all about refining our goals and looking for the things we can do to keep the joy in our chosen creative field. This can include finding collaborators, experimenting with different styles, reluctantly learning about the business side of creativity, etc. In other words, we’ve begun the process of growing up and into our careers. The good news is that this approach will lay the foundation for what can become a truly fulfilling lifetime in creativity if we’re prepared to stick with it.

Get Punched in the Mouth – Take 2

Despite our newfound knowledge and work ethic, the industry will still conspire to deliver significant valleys between the peaks we’ve begun to experience. The peaks can be everything from our first industry recognition, our work being made available to a mass audience, a big creative payday, or any other of many possible creative high points. These peaks are what will sustain us when the valleys seem to go on forever. At least by now, we’ll have the benefit of some perspective on how we wound up in these valleys and that will help us make a new plan informed by our past setbacks and disappointments.

Get Back Up Again (lather, rinse, repeat)

If there is a common character trait among successful creative people in any field, it would be their unwillingness to give up or stop doing what they feel compelled to do no matter how often they encounter adversity. So much of the success in our business goes to the people who wouldn’t take no for an answer whether it came from an industry decision-maker or from life itself. One of the ways I’ve found to weather these storms is to make sure that I have other interests outside of my creative pursuits. I know exactly how all-consuming a career in creativity can be but, sometimes, it’s the perspective you gain from stepping outside of that world than can be your salvation.


I should close this piece by stating that I am not a cynic. There’s no way I could have survived as a songwriter for thirty-plus years without a pretty good-sized dose of Pollyanna in my DNA. That being said, sometimes it can help to hear from someone who’s been through it that although you will almost certainly get figuratively punched in the mouth, from time to time, you can – and I hope you will – get back up and keep going.


Find out more about my creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.

I should begin this piece by stating that you won’t find a bigger fan of technology in general than I am. Starting in the earliest days of the personal computer all the way up and through the internet of things, I’ve always been fascinated with how technology can make life both more efficient and richer in general. 

I believe we’re at the earliest beginnings of what ChatGPT and other generative AI companies will be bringing to the creative table and I’m genuinely excited about it. However, I’m also a professional creative and I’ve spent the last thirty years on my own creative journey from amateur to GRAMMY-recognized, hit songwriting professional. To that end, while I don’t yet know how far generative AI will go towards truly stunning creative accomplishments, I do believe there is an area where we, as humans, will be better off without generative AI. Specifically, our participation in creative process itself.

To refine and simplify my argument, I’m going to use lyric writing as my example as it’s a creative arena with which I’m intimately familiar. It is now possible to prompt generative AI to write a lyric about any topic from any point of view using any metaphor and end up with – to my genuine amazement – a very solid result. A result that is better than most amateur songwriters could hope to achieve. As an experienced professional, I might quibble with the placement of certain lines or see places where the lyric could be further refined to add emotion but, overall, it would be hard to argue that the lyric provided isn’t as good as the majority of what’s currently being written by the majority of human songwriters. 

Also, I should state preemptively that I’ve never been a stranger to using technology to assist me in my songwriting process whether it’s text editing documents, rhyming dictionaries, drum loops or any other technological device to maintain and even enhance the creative flow during a writing session. 

However, the thought of being presented with a completed song lyric simply by giving an AI a series of prompts misses that entire point of choosing a creative profession in the first place. I believe that it is the creative process and not the end result that shapes us and our experiences just as much as our experiences shape our creative process. Having generative AI write your lyric is the metaphorical equivalent of buying a finisher’s medal for a marathon. You’ll have the medal but you’ll be missing every lesson about willpower and endurance that comes from the months of training (and the race itself) as well as the sense of accomplishment and hard won insights gained by exploring your own limits. 

I absolutely believe there’s a place for generative AI in creativity but in order for that creativity to have any meaning to the creator and, subsequently, the audience for creative work, the creative process itself must remain a fundamentally human one.

Everything about who I am and what I do for a living has been shaped by my journey and exploration of the creative process. I know that I couldn’t have done it alone nor would I expect anyone else to but I will always be glad that it was ultimately my process – mistakes and all – that got me to where I am today.


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In any business, your reputation and the impression that you make plays a major part in the success of your career. Being well-respected and taken seriously as a creative will, in time, open doors and lead to work that will get your ideas and creations (whatever they may be) to a wider audience and generate income as well. However building your reputation takes time and conscious effort. Below are a few things you can do to begin building your all-important reputation as a creative.

1. Develop quality material

It should go without saying – but I’m saying it anyway – that you should be actively working on your creative craft. Coming up with consistently good ideas and results of any kind takes lots of practice. Don’t let the myth that “all you need is one good idea” distract you from working on improving your work every day. I’m of the belief that creativity is a muscle requires constant exercise in order to stay strong.

2. Present your ideas professionally

Whether it’s is fair or not, you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression with your work. Even though, strictly speaking, a good idea is a good idea, the way you present that idea counts. Creative industry professionals are exposed to a lot of ideas every day. Don’t give them a reason to discount yours by pitching a poorly prepared concept. Remember, you’re running a business and you need to make sure your product (in this case, your creativity) is polished and marks you as a pro.

3. Develop your people skills

I think it’s important to remember that your ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. Your best bet for finding a receptive industry audience for your work is to remember that interpersonal skills count. Being friendly and taking an active interest in the people you’re meeting makes a big difference. For example, if you’ve got a meeting with someone in the creative industry, do a little homework and find out about the person and their company. Take the time to get to know someone before you begin asking them to do something for you. This can also be as simple as asking the person you’re meeting with what they’ve been working on instead of immediately telling them about you and your projects. And, although I’m not your mom (I don’t think…), I’m going to remind you say “thank you” when someone has taken the time to meet with you and/or answer your questions.

4. Take criticism well

Creativity is subjective. Everyone has their own sense of what they like and what they’re looking for. If you’re hoping to get one of your ideas or projects accepted, then listening to the comments of an industry decision maker about your work can give you real insight into what they’re looking for. Responding defensively to these comments won’t get you anywhere. You certainly don’t have to agree with every comment or critique but it’s in your best interest to give them real thought and consider the source. Remember, these are the people who make the decisions about whether your creations will be put in the position to succeed. Pay attention and see if there’s a way to give them what they’re looking for without feeling like you’re compromising your creative approach. I believe it’s possible to do both.

5. When pitching your work, remember that “less is more” on every level

I understand how passionate creatives are about their projects. It’s incredibly tempting to want to show any interested person A LOT of your material. Don’t. Only present the idea or project that is most appropriate for the pitch. There’s no good reason to add a “bonus idea.” Believe me when I tell you that if an industry exec wants to know more about your work, they’ll ask. Here’s an example, if at the end of their work day, an industry decision maker sees two portfolios, and one has one concept/project in it and the other has nineteen concepts/projects in it, which portfolio do you think they’re going to review? Also, once you’ve submitted your idea, be prepared to follow up. Again, less is more. A very brief email or voicemail about two weeks after your submission is just about right. You might need to do this a couple of times (with at least a two week space between each successive contact) before you get a response. However, if you’re polite and to the point, you’ll almost always get a reply eventually.

6. Be dependable

It’s essential for people in the industry to know that they can count on you to do what you say you’re going to do. By showing up to meetings on time, following up on things you’ve discussed and generally being reliable, you can go a long way towards developing a bond of trust. When people on the creative industry side feel they can trust you, it’s amazing how many opportunities present themselves. It sounds simple but by consistently delivering on what you promise, you’ll stand out from the crowd.


There’s really no way around it. Building a solid reputation as a creative takes time and effort. That being said, a healthy dose of patience and humility will ease your path. The good news is that once you’ve established yourself in the eyes of the creative world as a solid, reliable professional, the benefits far outweigh all of the work it takes to get there. 


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I’d like to begin by saying that I’m not a cynic. On the contrary, I’m a big believer that if your dream is to have success with your creative endeavors, then, in time, you will find that success. However, I am also a realist. There are rarely shortcuts in our line of work and being a gifted creatively, in my experience, simply isn’t enough to guarantee your success. It takes a combination of factors including patience, perseverance and, most importantly, an undeniable work ethic to rise above the masses of talented creatives all hoping to get their ideas out into the world.

  1. There are lots of talented people

If I’ve learned anything after living in Nashville and New York City over the past almost twenty years, it’s that at a certain point, creative talent is the least common denominator. In fact, the pool of gifted creatives is deeper and wider than we can possibly imagine. This is a good thing. It gives us ample opportunities to learn from each other and improve but the flip side is that talent is only a starting point. It’s all of the other things you do that will eventually separate you from the pack.

  1. Talent is something that you’re given, it’s up to you to develop it

There’s a reason talent is also referred to as a “gift.” The spark that makes us creative and intuitively wired is something that we don’t choose, we just have it. But just because you’ve got a gift doesn’t mean that you don’t need to develop it or spend time understanding it. That’s the actual work. Then, what happens when you do this work is that you will develop the ability to turn something that was previously mysterious and unpredictable into something you can do consistently in order to make your living.

  1. You’re running a business

Being a talented creative without taking the time to understand the business world is the equivalent of a company that makes a great product that no one will ever hear about because they have no marketing department. In other words, your creative output is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to remember that like any business, you’ve got to know the landscape, who the major players are and set specific goals along the way in order to get to the next level. I’m not saying this is easy but I am saying it’s essential.

  1. Your work ethic is everything

The dangerous myth about the creative world is that it’s an exciting, inspiring place where people have brilliant ideas, create beautiful things, go to parties, and then one day they wake up and they’re well known. The gritty, unglamorous truth is that just like any business, there are mundane, yet necessary, things you have to do day in and day out in order to get your creative projects out into the world. Having a solid work ethic and a willingness to get up every day and work toward your creative goals will eventually get you there. It’s not always clear along the way how these little things help but believe me when I tell you that they absolutely do and, in the end, make all the difference. There is, of course, glamor and excitement in the creative world but there’s a lot of good, old-fashioned work for you to do as well.


Creative talent is a wonderful thing and should never be taken for granted. I’m here to remind you to enjoy your gift for the amazing thing that it is. However, I’m also suggesting that talent is only one part of a bigger set of conditions that need to be met in order for you to successfully get your ideas and creative projects out into the world and to make a living doing it.


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As passionate as we might be about exploring our creativity, the reality is that sometimes it’s difficult to motivate ourselves to take action. Whether it’s the fear of plumbing our emotional depths or just good old fatigue after a long day, there are often obstacles to overcome when it’s time to create. While flashes of inspiration are great, we can’t always count on the muse showing up on our schedule. Instead, we’ve got to make our own inspiration. I’ve put together a list of a few things that should help you keep your creative fires lit.

  1. Set up a creative space at home

As simple as it sounds, having a place to go where you can focus and be creative can be seriously motivational. Even if it’s just a small desk and a comfortable chair in a corner of your living room, the fact that you’ve dedicated it to your creativity will serve as that little push you might need. Make things as easy as you can for yourself and you’ll be much more likely to dig in.

  1. Set up a time of day to create

Routine can be a good thing even for something like creativity. If, for example, you know that every day at 7pm, you’re going to sit for half an hour and explore whatever creative project you’ve set out for yourself, then you’re more likely to do it. They say it takes a few weeks of consciously making yourself do something before it becomes a habit. A daily time to create will go a long way towards a healthy creative practice.

  1. Keep a file of unfinished projects

One of the hardest things about creativity is starting with the proverbial blank page. By keeping an organized file of your unfinished ideas and projects, you won’t have to climb the mountain from the bottom every time you sit down to create. While sometimes it feels good to start with a fresh idea, don’t forget to check your unfinished projects file from time to time. It’s remarkable how a few days or weeks can add the perspective you need to see a partially finished concept in a new light and complete it.

  1. Find a collaborator

Nothing motivates more than accountability. If someone is counting on you to show up and get to work, you’re more likely to do it. Not only that but halving the burden can make creativity a much more approachable pursuit. This is one of the many benefits of collaboration. Other advantages include having someone whose creative gifts compliment your own in such a way that you both get a better result than you would have separately. If you haven’t collaborated on a creative project yet, this is as good a time as any to give it a try. Even if it’s not a perfect experience, we all benefit from observing firsthand someone else’s creative process.

  1. Give yourself an assignment

Sometimes the idea that you can create anything is just too much freedom. Often it’s easier to work on a creative project if you have some guidelines. If, for example, you tell yourself you’re going to sit down and write a haiku about your family pet, you’ll find it’s easier to get to work. Anything you can do to give shape and structure to what you’re attempting to create will make the task that much simpler.

  1. Tell yourself you’ll only work on it for five minutes 

This is one of my all time favorites. On days where you’re really struggling to tackle your creative practice, tell yourself you’ll only have to sit down for five minutes. That way, if nothing is happening after the allotted five minutes, at least you’ve tried. It’s astonishing, however, how often those days are the days where the breakthroughs actually happen. Taking the pressure off of yourself may be all that you need to get on a roll. That being said, if it’s just not coming, stop. There’s no point in making yourself miserable. There’s always tomorrow.


Taking time to develop your own creative practice is a gift but, as with most gifts, some assembly (otherwise known as work) is required. My hope is that by suggesting a few ways to lessen the burden of getting started, you’ll be able to create more consistently and enjoy the accompanying results.


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In order to suffer the slings and arrows which are an inevitable part of embracing your creativity, it’s a good idea to love your creativity first. I’m talking about a very specific kind of love here. What I’m not talking about is the kind of desperate, dysfunctional love where your creative ideas are so dear to you that you’re crushed if someone doesn’t love them as much as you do. The love I am talking about is where, like a good parent, you’ve put all of your experience and effort into creating a solid, well-adjusted child and you feel confident putting them out into the world no matter what anyone else says. I realize this kind of confidence/love won’t come right away and seeking out constructive criticism from more experienced creatives is a very useful part of your process. However, in the end, creativity is subjective and the most important opinion is yours. Below are three good reasons why loving your creativity can be a huge asset when it comes to growing your creative practice.

1. It Maintains Your Motivation

Creativity is hard work and requires a great deal of willpower and dedication. In the best of circumstances, it’s a tall order to motivate yourself to create something from nothing. If you don’t feel good about your work or you’re too easily discouraged by a less-than-glowing comment, it’s twice as hard to get up the courage to dig in. Regarding negative comments, you have to be thick-skinned. Very few non-creatives can appreciate what it takes to put something of yourself into your work so don’t let a thoughtless or uninformed comment discourage you or shake your belief. And, too, negative or even mean-spirited critiques from seasoned, successful creatives should be taken with a grain of salt. In the end, they’re only opinions and, as I mentioned above, it’s your opinion that matters most.

2. It Helps You Spread The Word

When it comes to the unromantic, soul-sucking work of pitching your creative ideas for various opportunities, loving what you’re “selling” is a huge help. The more confident you are about your work, the easier it will be to get up every day and subject your ideas (and yourself) to the whims of the outside world. If you only love your creative work when someone else loves it, that means you won’t believe in it if someone says it’s not for them. The world is full of stories of successful creative people who were told “no” over and over again. What if they’d listened? Loving your creativity gives you the courage to try again when your work is passed over for a given opportunity.

3. Confidence Is Contagious

Loving your creativity and being confident in it works on many levels. As I mentioned above, if you love what you’re doing, you’re more likely to keep doing it. But, more importantly, confidence is something people can detect in a million small ways from your body language in a pitch meeting to what words you choose when you’re submitting your work for an opportunity. In other words, if you love your creativity, people will be able to tell and they’ll be more likely to love it, too. This explains, in large part, why your first creative “success” is the hardest to get. It’s easier to believe in – love – your work once you’ve gotten some outside affirmation. That being said, it really does begin with you loving your own ideas first.


Be patient. The kind of love I’ve been talking about is not something that happens overnight. It comes from putting in the countless hours necessary to perfect your ideas, incorporating others’ suggestions that make sense to you and ignoring the ones that don’t. Once you’ve done all that, loving your creativity, in a quietly confident way, will make your work – and your life – more fulfilling.


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I thought I would take a moment to tell you (and remind myself while I’m at it) a few of the things we have to be thankful for when it comes to our creativity. Creative pursuits often take place in a vacuum with little or no encouragement and they are, by their very nature, solitary. Also, given that only the tiniest percentage of any creative endeavor sees the light of day, it’s easy to get frustrated. The risk is that we tend to forget what a gift exploring our creativity actually is. To that end, I’ve put together a few thoughts.

1. Your creativity gives you a way to express yourself

In the course of living our day-to-day lives, we are subjected to an unpredictable mixture of elation and sadness. No matter what, this is a lot to handle but having the ability to express those feelings is a huge advantage. Finding a tangible way of sublimating your thoughts will not only help you but also those who encounter your work which is a wonderful, constructive way of processing a life. Without the ability to create, you might never have the luxury of this kind of perspective.

2. Your creativity engages your passion

Many people go through their entire lives without finding something that truly moves them. If you’re willing to explore your creativity you will invariably engage your passion. While passion can make you crazy and plunge you into the depths of despair, it can also bring you great joy and drive you to efforts that you never imagined yourself capable of. This kind of growth can only come from the willingness to honor your creativity. Never take this for granted. Being passionate is its own reward and it’s important to remember that you’re lucky to have found something in this world that is so important to you.

3. Your creativity is a journey

Whether it’s the first time you create something on your own or the hundredth, every step of your creative journey should be appreciated. You will only have one first time to see something you’ve created genuinely move someone else. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy each event no matter how small. The danger in putting too much significance on the end game of creative “success” is that you’ll miss all the incredible moments along the way.


We all know how difficult, frustrating and even scary pursuing your creativity can be. Being thankful for all of the good it brings us can help keep things in perspective. Personally, I’m thankful for my high-school piano teacher who nonchalantly asked for the impossible at the end of one of our lessons when he said, “For next week, I’d like you to write a song.”


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Looking back on thirty-plus years of writing songs, it’s a lot easier for me to connect the dots now and see that the things I was doing years ago would eventually bear fruit. I can safely say that nothing ever moved as quickly as I thought it would and, yet, I’m constantly surprised at the ways that my long-forgotten efforts have come around to generate royalty income. All that to say, it would have saved me a lot of frustration knowing that getting up every day and working on my craft would end up paying off on its own schedule, not mine. Here are a few specific reasons to stay patient in the pursuit of creative success.

  1. You’ll enjoy the process more

There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for something to happen that’s beyond your control. For example, you’ve read or heard about a “last-minute” opportunity and they have to have your work right away. The reality is that nothing actually happens “right away” and everything is “last minute.” So after submitting your work, instead of constantly scanning your emails and sleeping with your phone, simply put a note in your calendar to follow up with an email in a week or two (not before) and forget about it. I know this is easier said than done but it will keep you sane. By the way, the easiest way to forget about one thing is to be working on something else. 

In other words, you should have as many irons in the fire as possible so that you’re not waiting on any one thing to happen. By “irons in the fire,” I mean looking for other outlets for your work, new collaborators and any one of a million things that you can be doing to have success in your creative field. If you’re patient, your day to day will be a series of small steps and tasks that will keep you focused and productive without allowing you to linger on any one thing for too long. Also, that way when something does come through you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  1. You’ll keep your perspective

Given that there is absolutely no such thing as a “quick buck” in the creative world, your best bet is to think about why you’re pursuing your creativity in the first place. If it’s only for the money, you’re in for a rough road. Even the most successful creatives put in years of unpaid work before the money begins to flow. If, on the other hand, you’re creative because you can’t help it and you love the feeling of putting something uniquely your own into the world AND you also hope to be financially successful, then your day to day will be the pursuit of something meaningful to you that also has the potential to generate income. If you’re patient, you have a much better chance of keeping that perspective while you’re pursuing your dream of creative success.

  1. You’ll build better industry relationships

We all know that relationships with creative industry insiders are highly prized for the connections and potential opportunities they bring. However, just like any relationship, it’s extremely difficult to build something of substance quickly. If you’re patient and don’t try to force feed your ideas to every person in the industry at every opportunity, you stand a much better chance of developing the kinds of contacts that move you ahead in your career. These relationships take years to develop (not five minutes at the hotel bar of an industry conference). What if instead of launching into a ten-minute, spoken-word bio the next time you meet someone in your industry, you tried asking them what they’re working on? Learn a little more about them and, in time, if you’re doing great work, they’ll get to know about you, too. 

By not treating every interaction with someone in the industry as a do or die situation, you’ll feel less pressure to make something happen immediately and enjoy getting to know them. Then, in time, you’ll have someone receptive to your work when there’s an opportunity. Here’s another small tip. It’s the administrative assistants and receptionists of today who will be the heads of their businesses tomorrow. Don’t ignore these folks in your search for someone more powerful who can help you. Take your time, build your industry relationships slowly and organically and watch what happens.

  1. It’s out of your hands anyway

While there is a lot you can (and should) do on your own behalf every day, the creative industry goes at it’s own speed no matter what you do. In my world, the journey from an idea to a royalty generating copyright is as mysterious to me now as it was when I wrote my first song. So, given that it’s out of your hands once you’ve created something, why not be patient and keep filling the pipeline with new ideas and creations? Work on developing your creativity and craft as much as you can and one day you’ll look back to see you’ve got a critical mass of excellent work that’s actually generating income. 

I once heard a hit songwriter say that he wrote one of his hits in “three hours and twenty-five years.” In other words, while the song took three hours to write, it was his twenty-five years of patiently refining his craft and developing his career that made it happen.


As long as you’re not planning on being a creative for this week only, take a deep breath, work on your craft and career a little every day and enjoy the ride. You’ll be amazed in a few years when you look back and see how far you’ve come. Good luck!

Find out more about my creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.

I’ve heard baseball described as a “game of failure,” which means that even the greatest batters in the game miss close to seven out of every ten tries. Well, using that same math, creativity, too, is a game of failure where the greatest creatives who have ever lived have had success with only a tiny, tiny proportion of their efforts. Given that this is the case, it might be worth your while to make failure your friend since, as an aspiring creative, you’ll be keeping pretty steady company. Stay with me here as I show you a few reasons why failure as a creative can ultimately be a good thing. 

It thickens your skin

One of the hardest lessons to learn as a creative is how to toughen up a bit when it comes to our ideas. Part of what helps us create is our sensitivity to the world around us. This is all fine and good when it comes to the creative process but when it comes to comments about our work, well that’s a little different. The reality is that not every creative effort we make will connect with people the way we hope it will. However, the more we realize that as creatives the only people we really need to please is ourselves, the easier it will become to hear less than kind comments about our work. Better yet, the more we hear those kinds of comments, the thicker our skin will become so that we can go about our business without letting unkind words get us down for long.

It’s a sign you’re putting yourself out there

If you’re “failing” when it comes to getting your work out there, that actually means you’re doing the right thing. If you don’t fail, that most likely means you’re not taking any risks and, I assure you, not failing is NOT the same as succeeding. So take heart. The more you hear no, the closer you’re coming to hearing yes. 

You’re being given an opportunity to learn

It can be discouraging when you feel like you’ve worked on something creative that isn’t up to par but the good news is that even if that particular project never gets better, you’ll take away the lesson. The more you can analyze what isn’t working in your efforts, the better able you’ll be to avoid those issues in subsequent tries. Learning from mistakes is the hallmark of growth in any career.

It forces you to recommit to your goal

Nothing strengthens commitment to a goal more than repeatedly picking yourself up from a failure and moving on. Developing your creativity is not for the faint of heart but if you’re willing to recommit each time things don’t go your way, you’ll build up a resilience that will serve you well throughout your entire career.

It makes you appreciate success when it comes

When creative success does come, it’s generally the result of what I like to think of as a critical mass of effort – and failure. What this does is give you a much deeper appreciation of what it takes to have any kind of creative success. That kind of gratitude goes a long way towards motivating you even further.

It keeps you humble

On the flip side, all that failure keeps you from ever feeling like you’ve totally got the whole “creativity thing” licked. In my case, I’ve written over a thousand songs and I still get nervous before I write. That’s a good thing.


So, if something doesn’t go your way, take a deep breath and try not to take it so hard. This is tough to do when you’re as passionate about your work as most budding creatives are. Creativity rewards those who can weather the storm of failure and come out the other side better, stronger and more grateful.

Find out more about my creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.

Learning to write songs as a way of exploring and solving problems has the additional – and powerful – benefit of providing you with a set of critical skills for facing problems you haven’t yet anticipated.  In essence, the more we open ourselves up to the creativity that songwriting introduces into in our lives and work, the more we’ll be future-proofing our problem-solving approach. Below are four ways that learning to write songs will help us with any and all issues that can – and undoubtedly will – arise in the future.

The ability to think laterally

Problem-solving approaches are infinite but it’s also human nature to rely on one particular approach which has served us well in the past. The problem is that as brokerage houses are fond of saying, “past results are no guarantee of future success.” Using songwriting to explore different ways of looking at the same problem can open up a variety of solutions that a prior “go to” approach might not reveal. Instead of thinking in our accustomed linear way, learning to write songs encourages lateral thinking which will allow us consider alternate approaches and paradigms in service of a novel solution to a novel problem.

Enhanced communication skills

Songwriting is one of the oldest and most effective forms of communication that humanity has. There’s a good reason that songs have lasted this long. They are a miraculously compact and meaningful way to communicate an idea. When it comes to solving problems, communication is a key factor in how a problem is not only described but also in how possible answers to your questions are presented. The better our ability to communicate, the greater the likelihood of convincing others to join us in our search for a solution.

Better collaboration

The use of co-writing to create a song better than any one of the individual writers could have written on their own is a direct mirror of how effective collaboration works in a business context. Bringing in diverse experiences and points of view and allowing each participant to contribute their particular set of strengths to the effort increases by an order of magnitude the likelihood of a solving a future problem that lacks the precedent of an easy or familiar solution.

A willingness to take risks

When a business team steps out of their comfort zone to learn a new skill like writing a song, they are clearly taking a risk. This risk takes the form of vulnerability, the loss of control and the introduction of a certain amount of chaos into a well-ordered and productive routine. However, when my business teams complete their songwriting assignments and end up with a finished song just an hour or so after they’ve begun, it serves as a reminder that the reward on the other side of risk can be exhilarating. Signing on to solve an unknown problem can feel equally risky but the positive experience that a successful songwriting session brings provides an increased willingness to face the challenge – and risk – of solving a new problem.


The creativity, empathy, improved communication and collaborative skills that learning to write songs brings are a set of versatile and powerful tools. These tools work both for solving current “known” problems and, more importantly, they will work for future “unknown” problems where past solutions no longer apply. 


Find out more about my creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.