For our meetings, we have agreed some ground rules so that songwriters can feel confident to experiment, and share their material in meetings.
1. Confidentiality and discretion
What we share about ourselves and work, and what we learn about each other stays in the room, and is not discussed with people who did not come to the meeting.
Be open to learning from everyone – those less experienced and knowledgeable than ourselves, as well those more advanced than us. Teaching someone else, or helping them, will improve our knowledge and skill, and help make their world a little bit better.
3. There are no rules, but learn what has worked for other songwriters.
There are no foolproof recipes or rules for songwriting. But there are lots of techniques and elements of craft knowledge that will make us better writers – releasing creativity and raising the quality of our work. It’s good to learn to use the tools, and we need to have a very good reason if we choose not to. By all means break new ground in your writing, but also learn what wisdom there is in tried and tested methods.
4. We can learn through mistakes, and through all questions.
There’s no such thing as a mistake in this group – only new data and more information. And there’s also no such thing as a stupid question – only an idea that needs more unpacking and explanation.
5. Advice for other songwriter members is for us as well.
When the focus is on another participant, their questions or their songwriting material, pay close attention. We can treat it as a personal teaching for us, and reflect on how we can use the ideas emerging, even if we think that, for us, this is familiar territory.
6. Agreement is not necessary, respect is.
We don’t need to agree with each other. We do need to be respectful towards each other at all times. It is an effective principle to aim to make sure that nobody loses face.
7. Comment on the song, not your fellow songwriter.
When discussing a participant’s songwriting material, talk about the material, not the person.
8. Don’t take song critiques personally.
When your material is being discussed in the group, don’t take it personally. The conversation is not about you. It is about your material and ideas. Actually, it’s not even about that. It’s about what’s going on in your listeners’ and readers’ minds, so it tells you mostly about them. We don’t have to agree or take someone else’s advice – but we might learn something useful by ‘eavesdropping’ on the conversation stimulated by the group’s study of our work.
9. Refer any group ‘issues’ to Alexander first, outside session time.
If you have concerns about the group for any reason, please make every effort to take this up with Alexander, between sessions, rather than raising it publicly during sessions.
10. Aim to address personal issues with group members directly first, outside session time.
If you have concerns about a specific member, try first to talk with them between meetings. If the concern is not resolved between you by doing this, please talk to Alexander about it.