Before The Words

Teaching songwriting these days has opened up a whole new world for my personal songwriting. A good writer friend of mine, who travels the country teaching at workshops, told me once that if I taught too much I would stop writing songs for myself, and my catalog would starve to death. I always kept this advice in the back of my mind as the lure to teach became stronger and stronger, leading me to start my own workshops and sharing what I have learned on the writer’s path. So far, knock on wood, I have had the opposite results, writing furiously after each inspiring weekend here at the Lil House Songwriting Workshops.

songwritingI had an epiphany one evening, as is my way, and woke up in the wee hours with the idea to have very limited seating (4-6 students only) for a workshop here on my wee farm and actually co-write with the attendees along with my husband, Rick Stanley and our partner Jerry Salley.. This idea came about because I was discouraged after teaching a large class in Illinois and feeling as though I bombarded the folks that attended with lots of information about the craft of composing but offering no way for them to see how the process is actually applied, how I go about putting all this wonderful advice into two verses and a chorus. It washed all over me that the only way to see what I was saying was to actually write with each and every one of them. Voila, Lil House was born. The idea that teaching might harm what I am as a writer is now a distant worry because I am co-writing as I teach, keeping the wheels of my mind greased up and ready to fill my catalog.

As I have been contributing over the years to this wonderful publication, Americana Rhythm Music Magazine, the subject of inspiration has been popping over and over again. The truth is, inspiration is the most important element in songwriting. Finding new ways to be moved enough to write a song is always an ongoing process and the reason I wrote about teaching this time. I am inspired to the soles of my feet as I talk shop about songwriting. The fact that I learn from the novice writers is a blessing. I am ALWAYS looking for new angles on this craft. Staying in a state of awareness keeps me honed and ready to recognize the genius in other writers.

Your challenge today is to find your own state of awareness and add to your beautiful bag of writer’s tricks. Attend workshops, and seek the company of fellow writers. Join writer’s rounds around town and share your creations. Feed off of the excitement that happens when creative people share music. Songs are a gift and a joy and a good way to spend some time.
Donna was the 2016 IBMA songwriter of the year, and co-writer of the IBMA Song of the Year for 2017. Reach Donna at

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