Real songwriters write songs. They write them as often as they can. They know that most will not make the grade, but they keep writing.
Because songwriting is a craft and like other crafts, it has to be practiced to be perfected. Could you expect to become a great golfer, painter, potter, novelist or pianist if you didn’t practice every day? You know the answer.
Some songwriters tend to wait for the muse. REAL songwriters write every day, knowing that the constant search for better, fresher, and more original ways to say, “I love you,” will only come to them if they throw away ninety-nine bad attempts and keep the best of the bunch.
This is all common sense stuff, but it needs to be repeated so it sticks. It’s easy to stray from your mission of becoming a great writer of songs. It’s hard to stick with something that doesn’t pay immediate dividends. But you’ll never see ANY dividends if you don’t stick with it!
So…. what can you do to stay motivated and on course?
1) Write at targets. Pick a current artist that you like and write a song for them. Nail their style and try to pick a subject you can imagine they’d sing about.
2) Write a hook a day. Pick a subject and just write the hook. Do it again tomorrow. Songwriters often get bogged down in the minutia of trying to finish a song. So DON’T try to finish every song! The hook is the most important part, so concentrate on writing a hook every day and nothing more. If you do it often enough, you’ll probably write a few hooks that will be great and THAT should motivate you plenty!
3) Keep a notebook of ideas. Concentrate on ideas that are universal — things that apply to most people. They don’t really care much about your life, but they care a LOT about theirs. Write about their lives. What’s going on in your friends’ lives? Write about it in the third person. Tell their story as simply but powerfully as you can. Listen to any of Don Henley’s lyrics to see how one of the true masters does it.
4) Use “Word Pictures.” Your song’s subject doesn’t just enter a house. She glides into a cold and empty house. He doesn’t just see a tractor. He sees a rusty red tractor in an overgrown field. Does it have a taste or smell? Use your senses and ask the listener to use theirs. The rusty red tractor smells like diesel fumes. The sun bleached wheat hisses as it sways.
5) At the end of each week of writing just hooks, go back and edit them to make them shorter and more concise. “I love the little town where I grew up,” becomes “This is my town.”
Don’t set goals that are so lofty that nobody could achieve them. Bite off a little bit at a time, and as you master each of them, move onto another. Once you’ve mastered a couple, tie them together and watch the smile grown on your face.
If you’re a true songwriter, then go write some songs. Just don’t repeat the same steps that have caused you to be stuck in neutral. Break from your bad habits!
Want to read a great songwriting book? Here you go: Read the reviews here.
Go write a song!