Most songwriters want to write more songs, more often, but run into blockers like daily life, too much writing and no new ideas and the ever-popular no time to write.
If you want to improve your songwriting as well as your songs, and eventually have a song catalogue that contributes to your own record or someone else’s, you need to be writing songs. Not choruses or bits and pieces, but songs.
But how do you make sure you: (1) stay inspired, (2) can finish songs, and (3) don’t run out of ideas?
That’s a question that comes up quite a bit from our SongChops Members!
You should be in collection mode all of the time. Just jot down things with no intention of turning them into a song. Note how you feel about something, or a word you think is funny – and why.
This is sort of journaling “lite” and you’ll be amazed at how it frees you up to become inspired by something as simple as a ladybug on a blade of grass.
By removing the pressure to “write a song” you’ve opened yourself up to seeing, and filling your notebook with things to pull from to create new song ideas.
These are things you’ll use to get yourself going if you don’t have anything that hits you as “I’m feeling it” in your notebook.
They can be random and not tied to anything in particular, i.e., you have no inspired personal connection to them.
Write them down and keep them in a prompt bank you can easily access when you’re stuck. For example, a note in your phone that is a running list; starting from the last page of your songwriting notebook and add moving toward the front.
A few prompt examples:
Read Writing Lyrics Using Objects Around You to get the full 411 on object writing and how it helps create songs. Once you’ve gotten it under your belt, you can create your own variations on the exercise.
The goal of object writing is to give yourself opportunities for lightning to strike, and to keep you writing without the pressure of a “song” coming out at the end. It’s also a great way to expand your imagery and detail, or “furniture,” writing skills.
You can also use the 365 Days Of Object Writing worksheet to keep you going for a full year!
You may be past this number. If so, increase it to what’s appropriate for you – with a stretch. By that I mean: if you usually write one song a month, make your goal 3. If you normally write 3 songs a month, make your goal 5.
Now write it down and track against it using the goal setting exercise. If you only use the “songs per month” piece, that’s fine!
The main thing here is that you give yourself something to shoot for versus simply hoping you write something.
A quick goal example: Hitson G.W. Riter’s Songwriting Goals
Songwriting exercises are a great “no pressure” way to ignite your songwriting not only to create new songs, but also to grow your skills as a songwriter.
Choose an exercise that sounds interesting to you and complete a simple version of a song. Get all the way down the page within a time limit (2 hours max).
Don’t worry about whether or not the song is great. You can go back later.
Your goal here is to free yourself up to complete the exercise. Did you fulfill on what the exercise asked? Remove the “is this a song” or “is this a good song” mentality.
What I love about doing this is that it helps me feel like nothing is ever wasted!
I keep a folder called “Crap With Potential” – yep – that’s what it’s called. And I love this folder, because everything in it could be a killer song some day.
These are usually “songs” that have come out of object writing starts or exercises, and have a basic structure but some things are missing, like a bridge or really strong chorus. Or, they can be songs that are older but don’t have the right melody or accompaniment, etc.
The point is, they’re well down the road and just need my focused attention for a bit.
If nothing else is connecting with you, go to one of these. You’ll feel productive when you’ve taken one and polished it up.
I write songs to pitch to Nashville.
But I also write songs for myself as a singer-songwriter. My album Seco Sessions has songs on it that I will never pitch to anyone in Nashville. That’s because it’s not their purpose.
While creating pitchable inventory might be something you need, don’t make it your sole focus and leave your personal songs in the dust bin.
Writing songs for yourself that are not following “the rules” of any industry or genre are important because they help feed your soul.
And, to be a great songwriter, you need to know how to convey emotion and connect with a listener. Personal songs are the best way to do that.
Learn to do that well, and writing for inventory purposes will become much easier.