A number of years ago now, I learned to hunt. I love heading out into the beautiful bush of New Zealand to hunt out deer and pigs. Even in our small 1,000-mile-long country, a hunt can take on many different faces. At the end of the day, I will have a beautiful bit of venison on my plate, but how I got it there can look so different depending on the natural surroundings and luck (I call it skill). The stories can range from something as simple as “I hopped out of my car, took a few steps, and there it was!” right through to something that resembles a hand-to-hand combat movie that makes you feel like a Navy SEAL related to Rambo.
My journey with songwriting has felt much the same as my experience with hunting. Some days, it feels like I am just in the right place at the right time and all I did was wake up! Other days, it feels like I have to wade through a mile of muddy swamp to find what I’m looking for; then when I do, I have to wrestle it to the ground, taking every bit of mental energy I have to spare.
Songwriting is what I call “the ultimate hunt.” You are heading into the unknown, looking for something that you have not yet heard of and have not yet seen. … But you know it’s there. You head down trails that haven’t been walked in years, trying to discover the prize hidden away off the “beaten track.” You spot sign (fancy word for poop) and you know you’re heading in the right direction, but you know you’ve got a little way to go. With a bit of patience and a ton of endurance, you discover the place you hadn’t seen and hadn’t heard but you knew existed. You find your prize and take it home to show your family before heading out on another journey to find that thing that you haven’t seen and haven’t heard but still feel its pull. A good songwriter in my mind should be called a “song-hunter.”
One of the things I had to learn as a songwriter was the difference between “sign” (that fancy word for poop) and “real meat.” Oftentimes I’ll get a chorus or a melody that is simply “sign,” which points me in the right direction. It’s not “real meat” yet, but if I follow it, it soon will be. I see this same thing happening with many young songwriters who have a heart to write worship songs for their churches, cities and nations. They discover “sign” and treat it as if they have the “real meat” that they are yet to hunt down. This is not wrong or bad at all, but it can lead to being discouraged. There are so many young songwriters who are discouraged in their gifting and afraid to share their song ideas because when they have shown them to others, they haven’t liked them, often resulting in that song being thrown out. If you’re one of these songwriters who feels this way, I want to encourage you: You have “sign”! Keep going, you’re heading in the right direction! It’s not “real meat” yet, but if you continue on it soon will be.