A few years ago I attended a show by neo-country crooners Old 97′s. The band played an amped-up, blistering set and I was in such a great mood that I insisted on sticking around after the show and waiting to see if the band came out so that I could try and get a word in with Old 97′s singer/songwriter Rhett Miller. Not only is Rhett a tuneful craftsman in the traditional sense of the Beatles or The Replacements, but he has such power over language you’d swear he was a prodigious creative writing scholar (which he was). Luckily, on that special night, after the crowds had dispersed and the lights had come on, I actually got to meet one of my influences and chat with him for a second. Naturally, one of the first things I asked him was: “What’s the best advice you can give me about songwriting?” His answer was not quite what I had expected: “Write a lot of bad songs.” Upon hearing this, I was shocked into silence. Of course not everything that drips from your pen is going to be Shakespearean and not ever melody you construct is going to be Wagnerian, but writing more of everything is going to give you a much better chance of finding those gems and of learning from your mistakes. It’s often the fear of writing something “bad” that causes us to stagnate and not grow. Once you realize that it is inevitable that you write some tunes that just get thrown out you can then free yourself up and loosen the grip of some of the microscopic-type criticisms that cause you to second-guess yourself. If you’re not writing a least SOME bad songs it probably means that you aren’t pushing your boundaries or taking enough risks, which for creativity, means death.