The Artist’s Gift of Seeing Potential

If I lost my iPhone, the person who found it could listen to dozens, maybe hundreds, of voice memos of my new song ideas. They would probably think, “This guy is the worst singer I’ve ever heard!”

Why? Because new song ideas, like the one linked above, are often sung out of key. New demos are full of mistakes.

But when I hear a new song demo, I don’t listen for the mistakes; I hear the potential.

I think the ability to hear and see potential is one of the most important skills to learn as a creator.

During my start as a songwriter, I assumed everyone shared this ability to “hear potential.” I quickly learned this is not the case.

I used to share early drafts of songs with friends and family. “I don’t know, Mike. I like your other songs better,” some many would say.

I would feel dismayed; I assumed my new songs weren’t very good.

I now realize it’s not the song that’s being judged, but the performance; and my mind is hearing something different than current reality. It’s like my brain has an Autotune program engaged!

Let me repeat: An artist or composer’s ears, eyes, and mind must learn to visualize the future for our creations.

Sure, this skill can have negative consequences if we don’t learn to edit and polish our pieces later on during the writing process; but during the brainstorming stage, this skill is essential as an artist. Maybe in life, too.

We must learn to hear–and see–the potential.

* * *

In the spirit of the blog, here’s a new song demo from my 52 Song Project. (Some friends and I are writing a song a week this year!)

–Originally posted at

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