It seems like there are a ton of wrong-headed ideas floating around when it comes to songwriting. Some of them are more potentially damaging than others, but I believe they all inhibit the ability of artists to write the best songs they possibly can.
In fact, some of the more prevalent myths and fallacies about songwriting (and other forms of artistic expression) have become so ingrained in our culture that we just take them for granted and don't even notice them anymore.
The first step to "recovery," I think, is recognizing some of the more crippling and widely held beliefs. Hopefully, by exposing these fallacies, we can shine a little more light on their illogical or harmful nature, thereby debunking them and loosening their grip on songwriters, musicians, and listeners alike.
So let's get right to it with our first songwriting fallacy...
Fallacy #1: Serious songwriters only write/sing/play about serious things.
Hands down, this has to be one of the most wide-spread and potentially stifling beliefs out there. This is why we have so many people writing about pain and suffering and trying to sound either melancholy, enraged, or just plain "deep," even when they don't feel that way or have nothing to say about the chosen subject. Choose this route and you narrowly run the risk of lapsing into self-parody.
Somewhere along the line, pop culture gave a lot of people the idea that in order to be a real "artist" you must only concern yourself with "weighty" matters. Many people think if you don't sound like you're ready to off yourself at any second, or sing about political unrest and suffering, then you MUST be a frivolous person who has nary a thought rattling around in your hollow skull. Pure bunk.
The truth is this: The secret to being a great writer is being serious about expressing your art and your vision, NOT making "serious art" just because that's what you think you have to do.