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Career Advice

The Shawshank Songwriter

The Shawshank Songwriter

A guest post by Brent Baxter of Man vs. Row

Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

If you feel trapped in your day job- if you feel like you’re locked in a prison, I recommend watching “The Shawshank Redemption.” There is an important lesson in there for folks trying to escape their day jobs for the freedom of their dream jobs.

After years behind bars, Tim Robbins’ character, Andy, was finally able to tunnel his way out. No, I’m not suggesting you sneak a breakroom spoon into your cubicle and dig when your boss isn’t looking. The lesson is not about the tunneling itself, but how Andy went about it.

He was extremely patient and radically persistent.

You see, Andy knew he couldn’t just make a break for the wall and try to climb over. He would’ve gotten shot. He also knew that he couldn’t tunnel out in one night. There was just an impossible amount of work to do.

Andy knew he could only dig and remove a little bit of dirt a day without getting caught. So that’s what he did. Day after day, month after month, year after year, he dug a little dirt and spread it around the prison yard.

I’m sure there were times he must’ve been so frustrated that he was tempted to scream and hammer at the tunnel wall, desperate to finally get out! But he knew that would only lead to him getting caught- and getting caught meant, at the very least, changing cells and having to start all over.

And maybe that’s how you feel at your day job. You’re frustrated because you feel trapped, yet you can only do a little at a time to escape. Some days you want to walk into your boss’s office quit your day job right then… but you can’t. Maybe you don’t have any savings built up. Or maybe you have a family that is depending on you to bring home a steady paycheck, and you know you can’t let them down.

Or instead of quitting, you’re tempted to lock yourself in your writing room every night after work and polish your songwriting chops or stay out late at songwriter nights every night to network. But you have a spouse and children who need you, so you can’t.

So what do you do?

You do what Andy did.

You plan your escape tunnel. Decide how much and how often you can dig without causing certain financial or family ruin. (Notice I said “certain” not “possible.” There will always be risk in chasing your dream, but you don’t have to be suicidal.) Then you start digging at that pace- day after day, month after month, year after year. Dig as long as it takes.

Yes, it’s going to test your patience. Yes, it’ll feel like it’s taking too long. But be patient. Yes, it will take longer than the mad scramble up the prison wall, but it’s worth it to dig a tunnel big enough to bring your family and a little money with you on your escape.

God Bless,



Thanks to those of you who have already downloaded my book, Hit Songwriting: How A Songwriting Coach Can Fast Track Your Success!  You made it an Amazon bestseller in the Songwriting and Music Instruction categories, and I really appreciate it!  However, if you haven’t downloaded your copy yet, you can get it FOR FREE or by clicking on the image below.  Enjoy!

Gift From Brent Songwriting 3

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