Quotes from “How to Write One Song” by Jeff Tweedy

I’m not a songwriter—at least not yet—but an accomplished songwriter recommended Tweedy’s book to me.

His words of encouragement and practical insight are helpful for all writers.

Here’s a sampling:

“Maybe it’s a cliché, but you have to focus on verbs over nouns—what you want to do, not what you want to be.”

“At the core of any creative act is an impulse to make manifest our powerful desire to connect—with others, with ourselves, with the sacred, with God? We all want to feel less alone, and I believe that a song being sung is one of the clearest views we ever have to witness how humans reach out for warmth with our art.”

“In the end, learning how to disappear is the best way I’ve found to make my true self visible to myself and others.”

“If you think you want to write songs but you can’t find time to do something as pleasurable and lovely as making up a song, then it’s just an idea you want to have of yourself as a person who writes songs, but you’ve found other things that are more important to you.”

“You have to sound bad to sound good. . . . Being willing to sound bad is one of the most important pieces of advice that I can give you.”

“You can’t quit because there’s a Beyoncé in the world.”

“If your goal is to write songs and have it end up being your day job, there’s really no substitute for a work ethic.”

“Like when Bill Callahan sings, ‘Well, I can tell you about the river / Or we could just get in.’”

“Some part of me believed that creation myth, that you have to suffer. And then I realized that everyone suffers.”

“Walking tends to unravel the knots in my thinking, and I’ll always recommend a leisurely stroll or even a brisk one around the block to alleviate almost any kind of mental stress. Whether it’s related to feeling stuck on a song or trapped in life, it’s an easy ‘next right thing to do’ when you need something to help simplify your thoughts.”

—Jeff Tweedy, How to Write One Song

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