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A story of rejection, improving song skills, and adopting the WHY NOT ME mindset!
By Paula Carpenter - 12/16/2001 - 09:45 PM EST

2001, STARBRIGHT MUSIC & CREATIVE GROUP. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

Hey there, everyone, from me! I am thrilled to be a part of the Muse's Muse! Thanks Jodi...hopefully I'll have something to say that will encourage someone along their way! I have enjoyed reading these articles, and look forward to having some ongoing conversations with you guys and girls. I wanted to kick this debut article of mine off with a bit of encouragement... in terms of the WHY NOT ME moniker I've adopted for my column.

I know how it feels to have a songwriting dream, and to not live in the place where "it" all happens. I know, because I've been there, and done that. I don't live in Nashville or LA or New York, either...but I know it's possible to make that dream come true. I know that you don't have to be young, you don't have to "fit the mold" that many say you should...but you DO have to be absolutely, positively committed to not taking NO for an answer...'cause believe me, you're going to hear NO a lot!

The most important thing you need to have is I said, the seed, the spark, the ability....and the WANT TO! Beyond that, you need to develop that talent to the utmost it can be. I communicate a lot online, via my website at StarBright Music, with aspiring writers...well, no, I take that back. With WRITERS, aspiring to become published writers! One gentleman aspiring professional writer recently told me, in so many words, that the muse was what he depended on, and I wouldn't find him at ANY songwriting conference.

I turned that over in my head a bit, and thought....ok. Well maybe that works for some...but I am of the opinion that we all need to have great song FORM. Sure the muse is important...we need to be inspired, to have that "spark" (and a great idea, one worth spending the time on). However...I always say, it's kind of like the mold that you pour jello into, or the cake pan that holds the batter...without it, you'd just pour a big glob of gooey stuff on the floor, I guess ...with no way to shape it into the form it needs, to be enjoyed by who it's intended for. Songs are just like that...I may have GREAT IDEAS, or you may have GREAT IDEAS...but without a form to go by, they just sort of fall apart. The listener gets bored and doesn't even know why...but the song just doesn't hit the mark.

So...that is why I recommend going wherever you need to, whether it be to the chair at your computer to hop on-line for some songwriting sites to study...or to the bookstore to get a great CRAFT book, or to a conference to interact with other songwriters, and hear experts in the field...WHEREVER.... I have to say that studying great SONG FORM is what's gonna get you closer to your goals, faster. Know the rules, so you can intelligently bend them!

It's not a step down, to say you need to study. It's not an embarrassment to admit that your form could use some improvement. Here's one for you: when I attended my FIRST Songwriting Seminar, back in the mid 1980's, I was a young mom, a wife, a former teacher, and felt like I had run away from home...going off to Colorado to follow my dream. Hey, EVERYONE where I lived, in Texas, loved my songs: my friends, my husband, my kids, my church...and let's not mom. Actually it was more my Dad who always said I could do anything in the world. Bless him for that.

So off I go, and I get there, having ENTERED THE SONG COMPETION weeks before, and fully expecting that my FABULOUS song, that WONDERFUL piece of Heaven-sent talent, would be in the finals it would be at the TOP of the finals...I was great, I was gonna win.

But nooooo...the songwriters who'd entered the competition were all called to a meeting that first evening, and they read off the TOP TWENTY--the FINALISTS! What? Are you kidding? How can this be? I'm not in there! This can't be happening, what the HECK is wrong with these people!!!? Don't they know that EVERYONE in my hometown loves these songs?????

To make a very long story short, I had some thinking to do. Some reckoning. I decided I could either pout and be arrogant and think these people, these Music Industry execs, publishers, published writers, A and R execs, recording artists, etc.,did NOT EVEN have a clue, or that possibly...just POSSIBLY, I needed to improve.

WOW. What a thought. I wasn't fabulous, in terms of the big, bad world of publishable songwriting. Soooo.... it was either swallow a little pride, decide maybe I DID have a thing or two to learn, and soak up all the knowledge offered there like a SPONGE, or tell everyone to kiss off, pout like a baby, ruin my trip, and not enjoy anything. I chose the former, and I HAD A BLAST!!! I went to eeevvvverything ... ..every song seminar I could find on song form, craft, inspiration, publishing, pitching, different genres... you name it, I was there. I decided to re-write my songs, learn what I was doing wrong, and at the end of 8 or 9 months of WORK, make my first trip to Nashville. Which I did And some of the lovely folks I had met at that very Seminar are the ones who swung open the doors and listened to my much-improved songs. Most of them are still near and dear to my heart, friends to this day.

But did I get any of those first songs cut? No. Did I establish relationships that said I was serious, committed, and flexible? Yes. I met collaborators, I made the connection with the publishers that I wound up signing an exlusive deal with a year later, and we entered a "courtship" process. Did they like me? Did I like them? We "dated" for about a year, with me flying in to town about once every six weeks to write with other songwriters that were suggested to me, and so the process began.

Whew.That's how it started for me. I've been on that road for awhile now, and it's taken me to success in country, pop, and contemporary Christian genres, including print musicals, octavos, and collections for church and religious use. I've started a Seminar Production company, record company for the recording of our gorgeous instrumental piano projects, and am in the throes of thinking through opening a publishing wing to work on behalf of writers other than myself. Come on "over", and visit me at StarBright Music and Creative Group, to see what we're cooking up for the coming year!

It ALL started, because I made myself get out there and go ... to something I was afraid to go to. To spite of the fact that my feelings were hurt at not being INSTANTLY accepted as fabulous!

Life's kinda like that, I've found. You just gotta hang in there, follow the hard...and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ask yourself...WHY NOT ME???

Till the next time, Paula C

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