Songwriting Contender or Pretender?

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

Are You A Songwriting Contender...or Pretender?

In my coaching, this is one of the first things I try to figure out before taking on a songwriting client.

Before anyone can take offense let me say that not everyone writes to win. Some writers write for the pure love of it! They want to get better at it by acquiring more tools. I love working with that kind of writer just as much as the kind who want the awards. They aren’t pretending.

Where it can get a bit sticky is if the writer is fooling themselves. Maybe they want the perception of being a songwriter; or adulation, or money…whatever the notion, they’re focused more on the 10,000 dollars then the 10,000 hours. This is what I mean here by pretending.

Be Honest

If you’ve been thinking about pursuing songwriting, be honest with yourself. Do you want to make it a career with everything it takes to commit? These days you are contending for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie, and for every ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC award winner there are thousands who will never get close. But…if you’re in it 1,000%, committed to finding every way to improve, to be heard above the noise? Sooner or later you might not only be in the game but you actually might win a few.

Back to the point about being honest with yourself. Might be in the beginning or somewhere along your road, but look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re pretending or contending? Based on your answer,  you can decide how to move forward.

The Contender

I always think of the Tony Arata story about coming to Nashville with high hopes, parking his car in the drive and not even unpacking the U-Haul before heading to the Bluebird Cafe late show. After hearing some of the best he decided he was a pretender and would head back the next day. Overnight he changed his mind and, over time, dug in. He wrote The Dance and many more hits.

If you think you’re a contender, go for it. If you’re pretending…just don't!. " Fake it 'til you make it" doesn't apply.

P.S. Check out this video of Tony Arata, years later back at the Bluebird :-)

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

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I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for Fall 2017. Visit my website for more info or write to me at

Check out this interview in the recent edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

About Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.