The S.A.C. Songwriting and Blogging Challenge 2013 is underway, and I am just one of many dedicated songwriters from all across Canada taking part in the Coursera Songwriting Class with Pat Pattison over the next six weeks. Every week I will share my thoughts and experiences from the weekly songwriting lesson.

Week 1

Let me first give kudos to Coursera and Pat Pattison for developing such and engaging online experience as a platform to lead this course. Gaining access to this high level of clarity, organization, and structure first hand, already has me intrigued about the many other online courses available through Coursera.

Lesson 1:  The Journey of the Song

The first week of Pat Pattison’s Online Songwriting Course sets up the premise that our most important job is to keep the listener interested throughout the entire song. To do this he introduces the concept of storyboarding our song using boxes to illustrate a beginning, middle and end, and describe how the story will flow forwards while staying connected to the title and move us towards the WHY of the song.

I must admit that the way the exercise was described seemed much simpler than when I sat down to actually do it. It didn’t feel natural at first to describe how the song would go without writing it, but once I likened it to building a structure to tell the story, much like I do as a designer, I could see that the decisions would lead to several scenarios for how to approach the song. Fantastic! It gave me the sense that I could challenge a song idea a few ways before settling on the most appropriate direction that served the song idea the best.

So Assignment #1 was just that, pick a title for your song and using the boxes technique describe how the story would move forward. Establish a point of view for the song by answering the questions: who is talking, to whom, and why? Also take the opportunity to establish when and where this is happening.

I chose the song title “The Good Old Days”, a scene set outdoors on a porch swing one warm summers evening. The dialog is being exchanged between a Husband and Wife. The Husband wants his wife to know the impact she has had on his life and reflects on “The Good Old Days” and all the things that he thought were important before his wife came along. It’s a simple angle, and I see the opportunity for lots of imagery in the reflections of the past, but I also imagined that the story could gain more weight if perhaps the wife was dying or deceased, and he was having this conversation at her bedside, or her gravesite. These are options I now have for writing the song, because I was able to create a structure before it was written.

I chose “The Good Old Days” because it tied in with a song idea I had written down in my hook book, that had no framework: “Harley’s, Horses and Hard Times”. I had no WHY for the story before, but thanks to this lesson, I believe that I do! So i’m looking forward to writing this song.

What a great start! Next up… Lesson 2: Stopping and Going

For the next six weeks I will embark on a free online songwriting course run by Coursera and led by the master himself Pat Pattison. Not only am I eager to immerse myself in the course curriculum, but equally so to engage with the Songwriters Association of Canada community by blogging about our experience.

I’ve been following Pat Pattison’s school of thought when it comes to Writing Better Lyrics for a few years now with a few editions of his book under my belt. He has much to share that I can take into practice as I develop my songwriting skill set.

My songwriting journey is relatively fresh, having writing just over 30 songs (most of them in the last year) and often I feel like I’m sitting down with my guitar for the first time. I’m almost halfway through a commitment I began last October to write one song a week for a year, and I feel like some new inspiration and focused reinforcement of key principals will leverage my songwriting and help me tell more engaging stories that connect people to the songs.

There is much that I am looking forward to delving into over the next few weeks, but most of all connecting with my fellow songwriters, learning about what inspires them and how they take on doing the work that is songwriting.

Let’s get started!

I realize there is a decision for me to make within the creative process and my artistry as a songwriter.

To create from my own voice or to communicate for others?

As a graphic designer it is my commitment to excel at the later, to solve design and communication problems for clients, and support them in the expression of their brand. In this sense there is a responsibility to create from another perspective, where success is measured by insights, trends and brand engagement relevant to a strategic goal.

As both artist and songwriter, I see a new opportunity to celebrate my own voice, and what I personally have to contribute to the world. A voice I could not access as an artist through other mediums. Through music there are stories to explore that could contribute so much more than the packaged, processed products for mass consumption that keep us from feeling anything real, or connecting us to each other. This is where my passion lies, in breaking past the surface and making that emotional connection, one song at a time.

For me this is a choice to be expansive, and not limited in my creative pursuits. In this choice I empower a voice that has in the past placed the judgements of others before her own. Through music I will emancipate my spirit and create a clearing to start anew.

I choose to expand from within! Where do you stand? I’d love to hear what you are passionate about and how you are bringing your gifts into this world. Please leave a comment on the blog or tweet me @misstaniajoy 🙂

Much love,


14 weeks ago I challenged myself to write one song a week for one year! Now 2013 is here and i’m midway through writing my 14th song! So I figure its time to share with you a rundown of my progress, and things i’ve learned along the way.


Write something everyday. This was great advice given to me by Christopher Ward during a skype mentoring session sponsored by the Songwriters Association of Canada. Check out more of Christopher Ward’s tips “On Songwriting” for other great insights.


To make this possible, i have a notebook by my side at all times, and lovely iphone apps to record on the fly, whether it be in the car, in the mall, or under the covers… whatever it takes! Personally I’m at my best in the morning… but its not just about when your inspired, it takes something more to do the work when you are not (and its the last thing you want to do!).


Honestly you have to push past the fear and be willing to write something that stinks, and in return for this sacrifice of your ego, you will breakthrough to something new.


Co-writing is an absolute pleasure, with many delightful returns in terms of learning, inspiration and friendships! It’s hard to tie this process down to the same timeline of one week like the others, but it is worth investing in the pursuit of co-writing to discover more about your songwriting potential, outside of your own style, and  process.


So here is an updated list of the songs i have written by committing to the act of writing everyday. Some days are long, but there is always a fresh start around the corner.

Week 1: You Hold The Mirror

Week 2: Daddy’s Little Girl

Week 3: Concrete Heart

Week 4: Play It By Ear

Week 5: The Good Word

Week 6: Soon As I Figure Out How (co-write with Dayna Shereck) Check out the behind the scenes on how our writing session unfolded here. We also cut a demo with vocalist Carol Kay for pitching purposes. Dayna & I felt it had a Country feel to it, so bringing Carol into the mix was a great choice to serve the style of the song. For all of you songwriters out there looking for clean demos, give Carol Kay a call and tell her i sent ya! 😉

Week 7: Pretty Good Hurts Pretty Bad (co-write with Brian Edwards)

Week 8: Settle For Love (co-write with Candice Sand)

Week 9: You Won’t Survive is another song i had cut into an acoustic demo with vocalist Carol Kay. Believe it or not this song was inspired by a line spoken by the young female lead during an episode “The Vampire Diaries” (my guilty pleasure) which i turned around into an angst-ridden tune of my own. Have a listen!

Week 10: Fine On The Outside

Week 11: Can’t Stop Loving You

Week 12: All That Remains

Week 13: Up, Up & Away

That’s it folks! I’ve got much more up my sleeve in the coming weeks, including an online songwriting course with my mentor Pat Pattinson … so stay tuned!