I have been writing and singing songs since I was a little girl, but it was my private world. Even if YouTube and Facebook and American Idol had existed at the time my parents would not have sent me down that route. My dad always said that the music in me should only be used to glorify the Lord and that resonated without issue. So, although I was often loud and not at all shy, my musical side was my own. And I relished it. As I grew up, my heart poured itself out to the Lord in lyric and melody. Every song was a sanctuary. I met with the Lord in them. I could flow and linger and labor over every word until it felt right. No constraints.
Fast forward well into adulthood when I discovered a real songwriting community. I immediately loved it of course. I had found my tribe. Just being around other writers was inspiring. Hearing their song stories was always so intriguing, yet familiar. Daring to consider myself a peer felt like an honor. And I felt understood. These people knew exactly what is was like to be distracted by a phrase and internally view the even the smallest details of their world as a source of creative inspiration.
But with community came co-writing. Co-writing felt scary and intimidating. The few co-writes I had done up to that point were not so great. How could I take that private, sacred time I had cherished for many years and open it up to strangers? I was worried about ruining new friendships. I was worried about being vulnerable with my ideas. I was worried I might never like someone else’s ideas as well as my own and I’d have to pretend I did. I was worried I’d end up with songs I wasn’t proud to have my name on. I was afraid if I disagreed in a co-write I'd be labeled "hard to work with."
Co-writing was something I wanted to grow in, yet it felt foreign. How was I going to do this? God took me through a process. I learned some things about myself. And God did necessary things in my heart. As different as co-writing felt from writing alone, especially at first, I learned that it's just the natural next step in growing as a songwriter. And all new things come with a learning curve and some growing pains. But the good on the other side was worth all the growing pains and effort. Worshipping and capturing the heart of God in words together is thrilling, and the mutual feeling in the room when you all KNOW you've landed where you needed to is worth the fumbles getting there.
Here are a few things I came to understand as God perfectly set me up in some great co-writing scenarios.
Don't interrupt people.
Don't be bossy.
Tell the truth in love.
Keep an open mind.
Choose your battles.
Be prepared to explain your opinions with grace.
Have a humble heart.
Intelligence, or knowing every single songwriting trick of the trade are NOT what make a great co-write. Needing to prove yourself, showing off, or acting out of pride will undermine the holy community that the best songs are born out of.
The single biggest thing co-writing exposed in my heart was my desire to control and it's root of ugly pride. Writing alone for a long time had never taught me that. It couldn't. But it didn't make those early years bad. This was just another lesson for a different season.
When SELF gets in the way of KINGDOM you can bet God is too loving to let that go undealt with. So we (I) can either learn that lesson and yield, continue stumbling over it, or take our (my) songwriting marbles and go home to write "amazing" songs all alone. I hope you can guess what I chose.
Now, keeping it real life here...not every co-write is my favorite, and not every song I co-write is my favorite, but I love the overall experience and relationship that has come out of them. When I let go of the need to control the outcome of a co-write I found peace and true community. And a lot more fun. It wasn't instantaneous, but as I moved forward with corrected goals the road ahead cleared.
I still do write songs alone. It will always be a valuable way I connect with the Lord, clear out my heart and worship. They are still sweet times where I can chew on ideas at leisure and hop up at a moment's notice or in the middle of the night to chase ideas. But, instead of writing alone being THE way I write it's now just ONE way I write.
I look forward to cowriting like a kid waits for Christmas morning. And some of my co-written songs are my favorites. Never underestimate what God can do through your willingness to grow!