What Are You Really Writing About?

Bright ideaYou’re Inspired! You woke up in the middle of the night with a killer first verse running through your head. You actually sat up in bed and said: “Man, that’s killer!” You managed to write it down before you forgot it. Maybe you even got up and plunked a few chords on the piano. Suddenly you felt like Sting writing “Every Breath You Take.” You even recorded your inspiration onto the Voice Memo on your Smartphone before going back to sleep.

Now, in the cold light of morning, you listen back to it. Amazingly, it still sounds good!

So now, you need a chorus. Nothing pops into your head right away, so you go to the notebook where you keep lyric ideas. (Good for you for keeping a notebook!) There’s a line you’ve wanted to use for months and this looks like a good opportunity. Bingo! You’ve got the first line of your chorus. You can’t really think of a second line, so you just repeat the first one a few times.

But wait a minute. Repeating a lyric phrase, even if you change the chords and melody underneath, can feel static. There’s not enough development to keep the song moving forward and listeners involved. And you can’t think of anything at all to say in your second verse. These are signs that there’s trouble up ahead.

As you continue to work on your song…

  • Nothing seems to fit with your first verse.
  • Everything you write sounds forced and unnatural.
  • You can’t get back to the inspired feeling you had.
  • Your lyric “voice” has changed. It sounds like someone else is writing the song.

After struggling with a chorus and second verse, writing and rewriting hour after hour, you begin to get tired of this song. You don’t like it anymore. You put it away and it becomes one of the Unfinished Ones. But it was off to such a great start. What happened?

Writing from inspiration

Inspiration is a wonderful thing and it always has a big role to play in the writing process. It gives us those gems that add color and life to a lyric, special insights that create depth, unique melody twists that surprise us at just the right time. Inspiration is playful, exciting, and refreshing.

The problem with inspiration is that it is neither linear nor selective. It gives you everything all at once! It might even be giving you ideas for a different song. Inspiration is either ON or OFF. And once it’s ON, like dreams, it will work on anything that’s happening in your subconscious. Continue reading “What Are You Really Writing About?”

When Do YOU Write Songs?

I’m always curious about how other songwriters approach their craft. Maybe they’ve got some clever tricks I could use. Or maybe I’d just like to be reassured that we all do things basically the same way, that I’m not out on some weird, lonely trail all by myself.

So a while ago, I started asking other songwriters the question: “When do you write songs?” I got a wide range of answers – some expected, some not.

The “happy accident” approach
The largest number of songwriters basically said: “I write when I feel inspired.” No surprise there. When an idea hits you that’s obviously a good time to write.

Many said they try to write at least one day per week. Pro songwriters write more often than that, usually every day. Even if you don’t have gobs of time to spend on your songs, you can do something related to your songwriting every couple of days. Here are some ideas… Continue reading “When Do YOU Write Songs?”

Tip: Stockpile Ideas for Songs

Problem: You don’t have big chunks of time to spend on your songwriting. (Not many of us do.)  So when you finally do get an afternoon to work on your songs – or at least a couple of uninterrupted hours – you need to get the most  from it. You don’t need to be spending the first hour or two just trying to find an idea you want to work on.

Here’s a songwriting tip  that can help you avoid wasting hours! Continue reading “Tip: Stockpile Ideas for Songs”

Inspiration to Finished Song

Q: “I find that I have an easy time finding a first verse and chorus (or rather, it finds me) but I’ll have trouble coming up with two more verses or a verse and bridge. The lyrics tend to sound forced and I feel trapped. Is that just how it goes when you’re trying to stick to a form?”

A: For a lot of songwriters, this is how a song gets started. The first verse or chorus of a song may come to you full-blown, music and lyrics together. But what happens next? That rush of inspiration has exhausted itself and now you have to write more verse lyrics and, harder still, they have to fit your existing melody.

Continue reading “Inspiration to Finished Song”