If I discover a “feel” that is working a lot on the radio, with the “Bro-Country” set, I challenge myself to write a song with the same feel but with a topic that is authentic to me. I don’t start writing only that feel, but I experiment with it.
I write mostly what I know. Not only things that I personally have done, but things that are within my realm of experience. They might be things I have seen someone do, things I have read about, or things that I personally have experienced, but I have some frame of reference for the topic, it’s not just fiction.
I don’t chase anything. I let my writing be influenced by what is working, but I don’t change who I am and what I write to fit radio. I do things that increase my chances, but I don’t try to imitate anyone or anything else out there.
I try to write for artists that I connect with at some level. Artists who sing about things I know. I write better if I aim at those artists. I’ve had plenty number one songs with an Iranian singer because I “get” what he is trying to say to his audience.
I work at improving my skills ALL the time. I’m never satisfied with what I wrote yesterday. I want to write better. I challenge myself to keep growing all the time.
I do a lot of self-reflection. The better I know myself, and the more real I am with myself, the better my chances of touching other people with my writing. “Real” writing comes from “real” people – not people pretending to be someone they are not.
Hope those ideas help. You can stay true to yourself AND have commercial success if you work at blending the trends in with a good dose of authentic YOU.