of the world's
most successful song lyricists, Pamela Phillips-Oland is a Grammy-Award
nominated songwriter who has written songs for such diverse artists
as Whitney Houston, Reba McIntyre, Aretha Franklin, Selena,
Peabo Bryson, Laura Branagan, Tiffany, Jennifer Rush, Anne Murray, Brian
Wilson, Gladys Knight, Frank Sinatra and Dusty Springfield.
Her film and television credits include songs for Disney’s "102
Dalmatians," Eddie Murphy's "Coming To America"
and the popular HBO series "The Sopranos."
is a top judge in the Lyric Writing category of the
American Song Contest and author of "The
Art of Writing Great Lyrics," an
informative and inspiring book about the art and craft of lyric writing.
is proud to share Pamela's excellent articles.
American Song Contest
do song lyricists sometimes get in the way of their own success? In this
article, Grammy-nominated songwriter Pamela Phillips Oland suggests ways
to overcome creative blocks and achieve success in the music business!
Do you know the difference between making
honest mistakes in judgment that in some way hurt your chances or had
the effect of holding you back; and making unconscious decisions or choices
that have the effect of making you fail? Be honest now: Are you guilty
of sabotaging your goals by constantly staging High Drama in and around
of us has acquired baggage in our lives. No-one is immune from having
been hurt and rejected, which always has the net effect of leaving us
feeling vulnerable. Sometimes, we’ve made stupid or regrettable
choices which have left us feeling unsure of our ability to even make
take all these little individual mistakes and put them all together and
jump to the conclusion that we are useless, bad, wrong, or destined to
fail. We begin to second-guess ourselves and break each thing we do apart
into little pieces that we can examine for how it’s an example of
our lameness. Life becomes an exercise in examining minutiae. We get so
caught up in self-flagellation with that whip of self-judgment that we
almost forget why we wanted to be creative in the first place.
This mindset—which is all about insecurities acquired through hard
knocks along the way—is the fastest slippery slope to oblivion.
It is the self-defense mechanism we employ to obliterate our dreams by
making them seem patently impossible. And how do we go about sabotaging
our dreams? By creating High Drama around them.
We find ways to defeat our goals every day by creating reasons why we
shouldn’t have them. What are some of the Dramas songwriters create?
and verbalizing: I have to have a day job, and
don’t have time to write. This makes the job the bad guy, and
takes the onus off of you. It’s you turning your job into High
chronically late for meetings and appointments,
in some way hoping to miss them entirely, so that you can blame the
lateness: Oops, I missed the opportunity. Oh well, that’s the
way it goes. And you can point to all sorts of scheduling conflicts
– I ran out of gas (you should have filled up the day before
when you noticed the tank was low); I got an important call (you shouldn’t
have answered it when you were going out. Let voice mail get it);
I had to finish another project first (You could have scheduled the
project for when you got home from the meeting). Excuses are cheaper
by the dozen. But you see, if it isn’t an unexpected tire blowout,
or a true traffic jam; if it isn’t a sudden illness in the family
or simply having written it wrong in your calendar – if it isn’t
a real urgency, it’s just plain and simple High Drama.
yourself that you don’t have the right contacts
to be successful, and thinking: What’s the point of creating
it when I don’t have anyone to show it to. This stops you
before you start the creative process, as you have rationalized
the “why not” instead of the “why.” It’s
classic High Drama.
I call the “Yes, But…”
syndrome: Someone offers you advice, and you
immediately respond, “Yes, But….” Fill in the blank
here, there are a million reasons, a kazillion maybe for not pursuing
a dream or an opportunity. Your reason sounds completely logical and
reasonable, you can support it, defend it, and rationalize it to the
nth degree. You shout it at the advice giver. You yell it at your
well-meaning mother. You always can invent a creative way out for
yourself. But what it is is just another High Drama.
Sound familiar? Your motto: Never do today what you can put off till
tomorrow! That call you were going to make? That demo recording you
were going to put together? That vocal lesson you were going to take?
That diet you were going to go on so you’d look your best? That
class you were going to enroll in to improve your technique? That
ad you were going to place for a collaborator? That song you were
going to finish? That song you were going to start??? You’re
too busy living your High Drama! You’re so good at erecting
roadblocks, you could work for the Highway Department.
worry about whether anyone will like your songs, or whether you’re
too young or too old, or too fat or too thin, or too far away from the
big cities, or too cash poor to make big demos. Don’t worry about
the 25 songs that were rejected by publishers. Don’t fret about
the people who told you they didn’t “get” what you do.
Bing Crosby and Clark Gable were both told they’d never make it
because they had big ears. The first publisher I went to listened to 13
of my songs and asked me if I’d ever considered going into plumbing.
He really did! And then years later when I ran into him somewhere (and
he’d forgotten the incident) he gushed over me and asked if I’d
like to work with him.
Trust me on this: Cut the High Drama out of your life, and get it in your
head that there’s really only one reason for doing anything anyway,
and it’s not for the end result. What’s the secret reason
for doing anything? For doing it, simply for doing it. The process is
its own reward. Clear the High Drama out of your life. Train yourself
to instantly recognize when you’re falling into that performance
mode, and—to borrow a phrase from Burlesque applied to pulling overdramatic
actors off the stage before they get pelted with rotten tomatoes: Get
Pamela Phillips Oland
with permission of its author, Pamela Phillips Oland. Visit her website
Another Great Tip for Song Lyricists!
Lyrics Only section of
visit the Lyrics
Only listings at Songwriters
Resource Network to find music composers, publishers and