I read a wonderful article on Acoustic Guitar's website. Emmylou Harris, a wonderful singer, musician and song interpreter, discusses her career as a songwriter with the article's writer, Craig Havighurst. You can find the article here, and I've quoted a few parts as well for her pearls of wisdom:
"I've always felt that you shouldn't record a song just because you wrote it," Harris says. "It has to stand up. There's a certain standard, and perhaps that's why I was reluctant for so long to attack songwriting. I knew I could write, but I kept finding songs I loved that were already written, and I suppose I didn't feel the need to write."
"The song is always the most important thing, whether it's somebody else's or you've written it yourself. So I was lucky that I didn't suffer from that feeling of being a second-class citizen," she says. "But whenever I get an idea and it's tapping me on the shoulder saying, 'I need to be written,' then I need to make the time to see if I can follow that horse and see where it leads. They say the best way to catch a horse is to build a fence around it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."
"Sometimes you have to just abandon a song and use it for parts," she says. "I worked on a song for years a long time ago and finally abandoned it, but then when I wrote 'The Pearl,' I remembered the line, 'We are not sailors lost out on the sea,' and it worked. The song obviously wasn't meant to be written for ten years. I didn't force it just because it's a good line; you know when you haven't found the rest of the body. I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping these bits and pieces around."
May the Muse stay with Emmylou Harris... and may we all continue to "catch" songs...