Wednesday, September 30 2020 - 5:19 PM
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Harsh Feedback

Fledgling songwriters, some of whom I have never met before, often email me and ask me to listen to their music. I used to get confused as to why these people were seeking out my opinion. I’m still developing my craft and probably will be for a long time. But then I think back to when I was just starting out. Whenever I met songwriters, I would ask them a million questions about their process and request that they listen to my songs. Actually, I still do that.

Inevitably, I get asked: “How do I become a songwriter?” To that I reply with the most honest and constructive answer that I know. “If you want to be a songwriter, write songs.” I fully believe in the saying: “Hard work beats talent when talent won’t work hard.” I’m not saying that songwriting, or any art form for that matter, doesn’t require talent. I’m just saying that I believe in the human capacity to learn, grow, and become better. So, no matter how terrible their songs, I’ll always tell the fledgling songwriter to keep writing.

But recently I was emailed by a songwriter and she left an impression on me. After listening to what appeared to be her first song, I could tell there was something special about her. Yes, her song was a little clichéd and had some structural flaws, but her voice and lyrics conveyed so much emotion that I was taken in and experienced emotions right along side her. Surprisingly, I gave lots of very specific feedback to this songwriter. An outsider might look at what I wrote back to her and think that I was being unnecessarily nit- picky. But the truth was that the only reason I took the time to give specific feedback was that I believed in this person’s talent. I saw something in her and I felt emotionally invested in seeing her grow.

It made me think back to the times that I’ve been sensitive to feedback. Sometimes I thought that “harsh” feedback from my parents, teachers, bosses or songwriters was mean. But what if they only took the time to correct me because they saw something in me? What if their criticism of me was only a manifestation of their emotional investment in my growth?

I don’t think I’ll ever look at feedback the same way again.

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12, NIV).

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About Jael Amador

Jael Amador

writes from New York, New York.

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