Jeff Tweedy’s ‘How to Write One Song’ is a Great Gift for the Holidays

Published on October 27, 2020

Jeff Tweedy is best known for Wilco, the band from Chicago whose music can be pure relaxation. In recent years, Tweedy has become a solo artist as well as an author. Last year, the artist produced a New York Times bestselling memoir, “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.” And now, Tweedy has released his second novel, “How to Write One Song,” which is a lovely guide for any creative or anybody yearning to tap into their creativity. 

You don’t have to be a music man or music woman to enjoy the read, either. The book is about the craft of songwriting, but large portions of it apply to any creative endeavor. It’s about getting out of your way and just creating the way a child would with a drawing. Don’t doubt, just create. It’s about breaking the ego down, forgetting “good and bad,” and making something unique to you. 

There’s an elegant simplicity to all of its advice. Tweedy does a great job of stripping away any pressure or doubt or insecurity that comes with creating something, whether it’s a song, a short story, or any creative endeavor. Tweedy acknowledges his ego or own doubts can get in his way, but with all of his years of experience writing and producing music, he shares his own techniques for shooting down any doubtful thoughts. Like Tweedy writes, writing or creating an art project is low-stakes stuff. The worst that’s going to happen is maybe you don’t like it, but as Tweedy writes, you’ll like that you did it. 

The artist inspires without cookie-cutter advice. It’s plain and simple instructions and a behind-the-scenes look at his own process. For the most part, he’s simply sharing what works for him, suggesting it may work for others. “How to Write One Song” has a refreshing take-it-or-leave-it style at times.

For songwriters, however, there are some great instructions for how to grow more productive. Tweedy is an artist who treats the job like a 9-to-5, which he admits others find strange for a musician. As a longtime songwriter, Tweedy offers up what works best for him. Oftentimes they’re games or word play that can lead to a whole song. You get to write along or try your hand at songs with the musician in certain chapters. Tweedy is like a great, encouraging professor trying to get the best out of people with the simplest of tools. As he notes, all you need is a pen and paper to make something. We all have the words in our head, just put them down. 

As focused as Tweedy is on the craft, he gets personal as well. He opens up about how songwriting and creating in general has been there for him during tough times. Even five minutes out of the day of making something, Tweedy writes, is an effective feeling of uplift out of the day. It’s always worth the high. 

The book is full of invaluable advice, making it the perfect gift for the holidays. I’ve already gifted a copy to one wildly creative friend who’s tripped up by their own doubts. The book ain’t a miracle cure for creative anxiety, but it eases it for those who create and those who want to create. If the book only convinces a handful of people to make something for themselves, that’s a win. “How to Write One Song” is a must-read for anybody looking to create. 

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Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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