The thing I most dreaded when I began making up songs as a teenager was being struck down by an F-150 before the world could hear my masterpiece.
Not so much anymore.
These days I don’t sit and wonder if my next song will be liked by hundreds of thousands of people. I don’t care whether the world will consider it a major work. I make up songs for one reason: to get free.
Songwriting makes my feelings manageable. Some people fight or pray their way out of really painful situations; I just have to tell you how bad it felt. The grief is released, mastered in a sense, through the work. I am able to move forward from it — you never move on from grief, you only move forward — after that transcendent moment when suddenly it’s art. To be able to do that makes the song, for me, a masterpiece.
It has a little something to do with craft, skill and workmanship. It has nothing to do with being popular. (If the goal is to be popular, then it’s all about the judgment of the world.)
It has everything to do with carving the battle scars deep into the work itself.
As long as I’m satisfied that the song I’m writing has that character, I know that even if, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the perfect emblem of unimportance, even if it’s mortal and has provided but a moment or two of consolation or healing, it will still be a masterpiece of sorts. It will be, if only for a little while, my masterpiece.