On Songwriting: What’s Cowriting Like, Anyway?

Have you ever watched the TV show House? It’s about a brilliant but abrasive doctor who is masterful at solving difficult-to-diagnose cases. In the show, Dr. House and his team of doctors hold meetings. In the room, there’s a white board, and House paces holding a marker while his team offers possible diagnoses. Lupus? No. Thrombosis? No. Keep going. “Talk,” House says. Cavernous angioma? Etcetera, etcetera.

Everyone is throwing out ideas and House writes everything down on the white board, connecting dots. They get closer, then further away until after trial and error and testing and sometimes getting it wrong, they figure out what it is: gold sodium thiomalate poisoning.

Or whatever.

This is cowriting. It’s a continuous back-and-forth trying to solve a problem. The problem, of course, isn’t diagnosing a disease. It’s figuring out what the song is about, why it matters, and how to tell the story in a way that resonates.

In the end your diagnosis is encompassed by a title: “Love Me Tender,” “The Long and Winding Road, “ not unlike gold sodium thiomalate poising.

*Read my post “How to Be My Substitute Cowriter” for a deeper dive into cowriting.