(This article was originally published in Worship Leader’sMay 2007 issue. Subscribe to Song Discovery today for more great articles like this one.)
By Claire Cloninger
1. Co-writing is fun.
For pure pleasure, there’s nothing like entering a room with one other creative soul, blank paper, guitar or piano, a rhyming dictionary, an idea or two and the prospect of a great song just half a day away. What could be more enjoyable? There’s mystery at the outset and possibility at the finish line.
2. Co-writing is one way around writer’s block.
I remember when my friend and co-writer, Ron Harris, said of me, “Claire’s definition for ‘writer’s block’ is ‘writing with everybody on the block.’” I think he was joking, but actually I have often nudged myself out of a “block” by making a writing appointment. When feeling creatively stale, nothing rejuvenates like settling down to the give-and-take of fresh ideas or a string of fresh chord progressions. Makes me feel like Lucy stumbling out of the wardrobe into the snows of Narnia.
3. Co-writing diversifies your catalog.
Songwriter Carol Bayer Sager’s songs sound like they were written by a string of different pop composers, from Marvin Hamlisch to Burt Bacharach to David Foster. Why? She co-writes with all of the aforenamed gentlemen.
I love the fact that due to my own co-writing, my catalog can sound like Paul Overstreet one minute and Paul Baloche the next. The words are mine, but they have taken a ride on some wonderful melodies over the years by writers like Don Moen, Lowell Alexander, Robert Sterling and Gary Rhodes.
4. Co-writing can be done long distance.
I remember the day I received a tape in the mail on which I found Wayne Watson’s beautiful melody and the words “friend of a wounded heart.” My job? Make a song of it. What a thrill to receive a Dove Award for Song of the Year with Wayne that year for our song by that title. And we had never written in a room together. Though I prefer in-person collaborating, this job can be done by phone, e-mail, snail mail or pony express.
5. Co-writing is a microcosm of the body of Christ.
I marvel at those singer-songwriter-producer types who wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll be a self-contained superstar!” They pick up the guitar, write a dozen hits, produce a killer CD and go on to win every award known to man. But most of us did not get all of the gifts. We got one or two. And we are usually strongest in one.
When I first took my songs to Nashville, I realized that every publisher who signed a song of mine was quick to introduce me to his “in-house tune man.” In other words, he liked my words, but he signed my songs in spite of my tunes. It was not long before I was co-writing.
Like the body of Christ, we in the songwriting community can benefit from each other’s gifts. We are challenged, sharpened and inspired by each other’s “strong suits.” And as we pool the best we have, the result is often that much better.
Seven-time Dove Award Winner, Claire Cloninger is a songwriter and frequent co-writer who makes her home in Fairhope, Alabama.