“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”
Yes certainly, once or twice a year a song seems to come effortlessly as a gift. But being a writer means I don’t have to wait for this gift to create magic by themselves. I am not at the whim of the creative muse to bestow me with a song. Guitar players practice, practice and practice. So do dancers. So do the athletics. Is a great ballet dancer less of an artist because she practices hard and long? Songwriters are no different. This is a freeing thought. Because no matter where you are on your songwriting journey, you can get miles down the road by writing more. I have witnessed greatly talented people wither away their talents by not working at it and I’ve witness folks that seemingly start out not very good writers become masters of their craft with steady effort. So today remember it’s not a great mystery, it’s a journey. Work a little each day and have fun writing. Even if it’s 15 minutes. Your art will thank you and you will be rewarded. Here are some practices I would recommend to do to strengthen your writing skills and your “creativity”.
Choose a song from the music charts and come up with a response to it. For instance, if the song on the chart is about a man saying, “Why did you leave me?”, I try to write a song from the woman’s point of view that tells why she left him. I brainstorm titles that would convey that idea. I might write “I Couldn’t Take It Anymore” or “You Never Loved Me Anyway”. Brainstorming titles that are responses to current hit songs is a way to come up with lots of creative hooks. In this kind of practice, most likely you’d end up with a great song which if you don’t explain how you came with the title, it can be an acceptable song on it’s own.
Try to write a verse and chorus melody that works with only one chord. We are so used to the typical chord changes in modern music, that we can get in a rut. Taking those changes out of the equation can really force you to write different kinds of melodies. Sometimes I try to write only with one chords, just using different varieties of it. It is a bit limited but if you keep playing with the types of the chord – not even the mode, but just purely the type, like closed or open chord, adding the notes from different octaves, etc – the result will be pretty interesting. Just requires a tremendous amount of creativity and patience for playing around with the chords and find new things.
Write down a sentence that you would actually like to say to someone in your life. Brainstorm titles that would work to convey that message. Sometimes it can come from a quote you would read in a book or on internet, or sometimes it can start from a sentence you literally wish you could say it in someone’s face. Guess what, now you have a voice. You have a platform as a writer, and if you do your craft well enough, there’s a good chance that person will hear what you wanted to tell them. If you’d like to tell an ex love, “I regret letting you go”, you might come up with titles like “Regrets”, “What I Miss The Most”, etc. Writing from a real place in your own life is a great way to up your writing game because it’s easier to write something you feel than to write something you simply make up. In writing the truth, you don’t necessarily need to be 100% honest and you can use lots of metaphors or adding little details for dramatic purposes.