There is both magic and discipline in the art of songwriting. You may be reading this as a professional writer or as someone who dabbles for the joy of it, but one thing remains—we are all creative. I honestly believe this.
As I sit here trying to share some of the tricks I’ve learned over the last decade of songwriting, I know you could quit reading right now and go write a great song because the moment may just strike you—magic. I also know you could sit down and decide to write a song and not quit until the job is done—discipline. I would love to help you achieve both.
This may shock you, but I believe the magic is easier. You’re suddenly struck by the NEED to write and get it all down. You are no longer in control. You simply ride the wave of whatever lovely Muse has graced you with her presence.
But barring being struck in the head with inspiration, how do you control the songwriting process? Here are two of my “tricks.”
1. Wooing the Muse.
First, find the perfect space for your creativity. Personally, I love finding a loud place where life is happening. There are lots of sounds, smells, and commotion. I enjoy feeding off the natural energy that a place can provide. Get ideas, take notes, and gather the energy.
Second, find a quiet place with soft lighting and something beautiful to look at. This is your space for doing the creative work. For me, this second space happens to be the writing room in my house. I turn on some lamps, open the blinds, and stare out at the forest of trees behind my house. For you it may be any number of things, but create a space either loud or soft, busy or tranquil, that brings you to a place where your inner voice gets really loud.
Don’t forget to focus on things that you find beautiful or entirely too large to comprehend. I find that this helps you realize that there is “magic” in creation.
Creativity is too big to be wrangled—it has to be wooed. (You might want to tweet that.)
(Remember, these moments can happen whenever and wherever. Always keep something handy to write down lyrics or record melodies because that particular “magic” may only happen once. I’ve forgotten more songs than I’ve written.
2. Creating the Discipline to songwrite.
So the last three times you wrote songs, they just came to you. It was invigorating and powerful. It also hasn’t happened in 3 months. Here’s how you overcome that—Make Time.
In Nashville, professional songwriters have something they call 10, 2, & 6. This refers to their songwriting appointment times. They literally set aside time at 10 AM, 2 PM, and 6 PM to write. So they show up to their “space” and stare at blank pages or hold a quiet guitar.
What do they do with the silence? They pull up all the little things that have been calling them lately. The one line they wrote down two weeks ago or the funny conversation they just had with their kid. Pull from your life and intentionally try to fit that inspiration into the story of your song. That conscious and disciplined writing had birthed more songs than all those moment of “genius.”
Remember Thomas Jefferson said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Good luck finding.
Have you ever written a song before? What tips do you have?
Here’s a great way to put this into practice. Pick a subject, any subject, and carve out fifteen minutes to write four lines. Don’t be afraid of keeping it really simple. Remember what Harlan Howard said “music is three chords and the truth.”
Share your four lines in the comments section. And if you share, don’t forget to give feedback to a few posts from other writers.