Why you should lower your standards

darrell brown

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers. Today I discuss a New York Times article by songwriter Darrell Brown…

I love the New York Times “Opinionator.” A daily essay, online, on a wide variety of topics, the feature periodically examines the art of songwriting.

A recent column by songwriter Darrell Brown caught my eye, mainly because it included a clip of Paul Simon on the Dick Cavett show. Normally, I don’t watch video on the Interet — it takes too long — but I broke my rule to view this one and I’m glad I did. In the clip, an impossibly young Simon is explaining his struggles with the song “Still Crazy After all These Years.” I know the show must have been recorded before 1987, because that was the year in which “Still Crazy” was released.

I enjoyed Simon’s ruminations about repetition and how it becomes boring for audiences. Even more, I appreciated songwriter Darrell Brown’s reflections on how to deal with being stuck as a songwriter. His thoughts are useful to writers in general — not just songwriters…

The line that resonated the most for me was his quote from poet William Stafford: “When you get stuck, lower your standards.” Brown argues, and I agree, that we usually get stuck because we’re censoring ourselves.

Don’t censor yourself when you could be writing…

Posted December 23rd, 2013 in Writing about writing

  • Bob

    What a treasure you are! I didn’t know Dick Cavett was extant. And he has developed a sense of humor. He was a must on PBS, and always deadly serious. Even Cavett nods though – “there are still a handful of defenders” – are? 🙁

    • Funny, I had always seen Cavett as a humorist! (Perhaps that’s because I’m Canadian and saw only a small percentage of his work — usually the funny stuff.)