This post is centrally about song writing, but the principles apply to many creative pursuits:
Since about the middle of last century, a Particular sort of musician has been identified as a “Singer-Songwriter.”
The term has become very popular in the last thirty years, identifying an artist who typically accompanies themselves, seldom with more than one or two backup players, usually writes alone or with at most one partner, and is expected to at least be able to take their show on the road with minimal support or fanfare. The singer part of the title is pretty obvious. Their works will usually include lyrics and they will sing to their audience. The writing part is where the rubber hits the road…or something else hits the fan.
I propose that many can sing and play well, while few can write well, and that what will be remembered, what will give an artist standing and longevity, and also give the most to humanity, is the writing. I also believe that the process of writing a song is like many creative endeavors, having two distinctive elements which are each indispensable: fishing and cooking.
There is both art and craft in creating and performing a good song. The art is to have vision, to be open to experience and to collect images, ideas and feelings, and to see how they relate to one another. That is fishing. One must wait. Hunting for a better spot, even diving with a spear sometimes works, but mainly, keen observation and patience tend to win out. The materials for creativity float by, and the best artists pick the ones they need, and keep them handy for when another connected (or connectable) piece floats by. Then, when the collection has grown to a critical mass, and the necessary parts are ready to be assembled into a song (there are enough fish in the boat for a meal) it is time to cook them up.
Actually composing the song is the workmanlike process of assembling the stuff one has gathered into a form which the audience can receive (eat, or absorb – not necessarily totally understand, but at least want to hear it again) and then to perfect and perform it. Some people are better at one than the other, but both wings are necessary for the Singer-Songwriter to fly.
More on Singer-Songwriters: WikiPedia
Pitchfork Media (Independent Artists)
Rolling Stone (PopCulture)
Singer-Songwriters in the wild:
Concerts In Your Home