At least twice a week I get an email seeking advice on how to overcome writer’s block. For many songwriters the worst part of the whole writing experience is just getting started. Those times when we sit down to write, and nothing comes out. We feel like we have nothing to say. Well here are 5 techniques I’ve used to permanently eliminate writers block and free up creativity.
Most of us tend to gravitate toward the same kinds of things when we write. We write grooves and we make it the way it feels that we like it to feel. And we tend to write topics we like as well. But there is one thing to remember, what we want isn’t necessarily what it is supposed to be. When we are writing music to be released, basically we are making a craft for a market. We can’t just say “this is what I like, and people must like it”. Use these exercises to stretch your writing boundaries.
Write a one sentence summary of your song. Let’s say my hook is “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right”. My statement of purpose would be “I must be doing something right because I don’t deserve a woman as amazing as you.” When you write the song, be sure that EVERY line in the song supports that one idea. This helps especially if you tend to wander with your lyrics. Make sure you are writing about ONE thing.
Map your song before you start. If you determine what you want to say in each verse and the chorus BEFORE you start writing, it makes the writing part much easier. In “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right”, the map would look like this:
In the music business, I see two general categories of people – the excuse makers and the other people. The excuse makers always seem to have a lot going on. So much, in fact, that they can’t ever seem to get around to doing the things that would cause them to succeed as a songwriter. They are doing LOTS of things and appear to be busy, but somehow there’s always a reason why they don’t have time to do the things that would help them get ahead.
When I got my first songwriting deal, my publisher and our other songwriter, would write 2-3 times a day. Every day. The volume of out put from our office was crazy. We were cranking out between 30 and 45 songs per week between the three of us. I had nothing to compare it to, so I didn’t think much of it. I thought every writer in town was working that hard and writing that many songs. As time went by, I discovered that most writers were NOT writing that much. I asked the other writers from our team why they wrote so much. They told me that they wrote a lot because they wanted to increase their chances of getting a cut AND because they wanted to have songs to pitch to every artist. And, they believed that writing more improved your writing exponentially.
I was talking to someone recently about their songwriting goals. He expressed frustration over their lack of success in achieving any of them. So, I asked for more details. He laid out a list of goals that would be ambitious even for a seasoned pro. In fact, I had only achieved one of his goals. His list read something like this:
I couldn’t possibly count the number of beginning songwriters, when asked “Who would you pitch this to?”, give answers like Keith Urban, Katy Perry, Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks, Rhianna, etc. I’ve been writing professionally for almost 15 years, I have had multiple #1 songs and over 3000 songs recorded, yet I have never had a song recorded by any of those artists. What does that tell you about the realistic (or not) nature of those goals?
I have to agree 10,000 percent with this quote. I have often read, mostly in interviews with recording artist, things like “I only write when I’m inspired”. I believe this is a myth that some writers and recording artists perpetuate that great songs simply fall from the heavens and only a few chosen ones, like them, are given these gifts. But the real truth is that songwriting is no different than any other skills in life. The more we do it, the more we exercise the muscle, the better we get at creating. Songwriting to me is not really that much of “talent” it’s more of “hard work”. What you need to become a great writer is to practice constantly. The more we play with words and notes, looking at all the possible meanings and emotions, the deeper we understand the possibilities.