As a songwriter, your aspiration is to inspire others. However, the challenge of professional writing and life in general makes it difficult to do this on a consistent basis. At some point, you have to be inspired in order to be inspiring. You can’t pump water from a dry well.
It’s been a difficult season for me. Coming off of a job loss to throw myself headlong into a new job and industry, trying to be happy with those who were so happy for me, reinventing myself and talking myself into being passionate about something that I wasn’t, and attempting to understand that which was hidden from me had taken a real emotional toll. And after all of that effort, I learned that my exciting new job in this “so-much-more-stable-than-music” industry was ending in much the same way as my previous job had done just two years before. I turned 40. I was exhausted. And hardly inspired.
For my birthday, my beautiful wife sent me to the Hymnish songwriter’s retreat in Franklin, TN. It was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time. Hymnish is sponsored by The Songwriter’s Cafe, a podcast for Christian songwriters. It’s an intimate gathering. There’s an application process to keep the numbers down and the quality up. I applied. I was accepted.
And I was accepted.
This was a breath of fresh air. After enduring so much isolation and loneliness that accompanies a job loss, it was so meaningful to walk into a room full of strangers, look at them, and think “I know you. You’re just like me.”
If you’re serious about songwriting and want to get to the next level, you should seriously consider investing in a specialized retreat or conference. The best ones will give you opportunities to bond with peers and co-write with those who are more experienced. In addition to Hymnish, here are some other retreats and conferences that I recommend for songwriters:
- Song DISCovery Creative Conference. This conference, held every April, is designed for Christian songwriters, authors, and visual artists. Brentwood, TN.
- NSAI Song Camp. Never been, but would love to go. Make no mistake, nobody takes the songwriting craft more seriously than a country songwriter. Even if you don’t write country, pay attention and learn. July, Nashville.
- National Worship Leader’s Conference. Sponsored by Worship Leader Magazine, this is THE place where the major thought leaders in evangelical church / worship music gather. Tracks include worship leadership, songwriting, and technology. July (KS) and October (CA).
- Songbird Camp. Another one I hope to attend some day, this retreat is sponsored by Ben Cooper (you know, from the preschool hit “Zip, Zoom, Zing!” OK, maybe some other songs too). Get away with a small band of songwriters, including some Nashville heavyweights. Ben’s taking a break this year to be with his wife and newborn baby, but watch his website for updates.
Q: Do you have other events that you go to for songwriting or worship leading? How do you refresh your creativity?