I got a letter from a Musician-friend asking me questions about songwriting.
I’ve never considered myself a specialist on anything, but I guess I’ve been writing songs long enough now that perhaps I can share a few things. So here is a post to help everybody who is struggling with the craft.
It is a craft. And it takes a lot of trial and error. Who hasn’t looked at their early songs and shuddered? Obvious clichés, tired metaphors… and they never stop showing up at some point in the songwriting process… for me, even now, after living as a musician for ten years.
So here are some tips to help you when you’re writing a song.
1. Don’t be scared. It’s fun. I always have fun writing a song. When you start to let yourself go, you can start to let the song start to write itself. It will. It just comes to you, once you’re in motion. Things in motion stay in motion. Basic law of Physics.
2. If you get stuck in a song, start from the beginning, singing the words until you hit the troublepatch. Often the second time around your brain has filled in the gaps.
3. Trust your subconscious. Your brain works all the time. Get it? ALL THE TIME. So, if you’re writing a song and you’re stuck and nothing works, go to bed. The solution will come in a dream, or be on the tip of your lips when you awake. I promise.
4. Nothing is off limits. Wanna write about Nuclear war? Do it. Political asylum? Go right ahead. Your ex? Absolutely. The sky’s the limit. It’s all in you. You just have to let it out, without letting others’ judgements cloud yours.
5. Try different approaches to writing songs. Newspaper articles, stories, other artists’ lives, look out the window and write what you see. It’ll often turn into a song. A phone call… a cat chilling under a blanket in the sun
6. Carry a notepad with you at all times. Record what you hear. Write rhymes. Record what you see. See where your imagination takes you. Or use your phone, you little iGen … whatever pleases you and is the most accessible way for you to transmit your thoughts
7. Finish songs! So many people have told me they have oodles and oodles of unfinished songs. What’s the point? Don’t get stuck on the immediate fix of starting a new song without going back to the other one. If you do move on, at least make a point of returning to old ones. If you don’t, you’ll just have tons of unfinished songs. What’s the frikkin point?
8. Remember, you are a channel. You are channelling the words you’re putting on the page. All it really takes is listening. Let your fingers hover over the paper while the right word finds it’s way into the ink and onto the page.
9. Write from your heart and write what you know. If you wanna be funny, be funny. If you wanna be sardonic, be sardonic. Tell stories from your life. Make up stories. Just be yourself. Use metaphors, similes and onomatopoeias. Challenge yourself constantly.
10. Avoid cliches. Very important. If one comes to you, change it. Make it a non-cliché. Subvert it. Turn it on its butt. See what else you can say that makes the phrase more interesting.
11. Write a lot. Get off your social media bullcrap and be in the moment with a pad of paper and your thoughts. Write. The more you write, the more potential you’ll have of writing a meaningful song that resonates with a lot of people. Or even just a few people.
12. Try your best to remain in the Abundancy Mindset. It’s easy not to. I know. But the more you refrain from Scarcity Thinking (basically thinking everything’s going to go wrong), and the more you focus on bringing good things into your life, the easier things come to you. You will write more songs. Why? Because you’re opening up to allowing yourself to receive amazing things because you’re amazing. You’ll write those hit songs. Why? Because you’re not wasting time telling yourself you can’t. Throw that self-rhetoric out. It’s self-damaging. You don’t need it.
So that’s it… for now. I mean, there’s probably more I’m not thinking of, so… if you want to see a Part Two, please tell me in the comments.