Wednesday, June 19, 2013

9 Ways to Find Inspiration For Your Songwriting

No matter who you are, you will have times where you just get stuck trying to  come up with an idea. Painters, marketing professionals, software developers, and musicians all get stuck with creative blocks sometimes. Though it applies to so many different professions, it is commonly known as Writer's Block. All songwriters, even the most well-known, hit creative blocks during their songwriting efforts. The trick is finding ways to break through that creative wall and finish the song. This article is about some of the typical ways artists use to get past cases of Writer's Block when creating new songs.

Give It A Name First
 photo Writers_Block_zpsdf411555.jpgWhile this may not be a universally agreed-upon approach, many songwriters consider the name of the song a good place to start. After all, the song title typically embodies the central theme of the song's story. How can you create a story without having a central theme to build upon? It is held that Bon Jovi's hit song "Wanted Dead Or Alive" was written this way. It was written out of the title and the central theme associated with the title. So the next time you get stuck and you haven't titled the song yet, give this approach a try and see what ideas 

Set Yourself A Schedule
If you only wait for inspiration to strike, then you may have to wait a while. Instead, try creating a scheduled writing time each day and sticking with it. This harkens to Jerry Seinfeld's famous productivity method for his own comic writing. He would take a large calendar, and each day that he spent time writing new material he would put a big red X on that day on the calendar. As the chain of red Xs grew in length, it compelled him to not break the chain. Setting yourself a regular time to sit down and just work on your songwriting helps you build it into a normal habit rather than being some kind of work. By writing on a regular basis, you are also getting "practice" at it the same way you spent time practicing your instrument each day when you were learning to play. The more you do something, the easier and more automatic it will become.

Work In A Dedicated Space
Pick a place in your home or have a separate studio you can work in without distraction. This is a common tip for people who have work at home jobs because it helps to "separate" their focus. By creating a focus-oriented work space where you do nothing but work on your music, you set your mind up to separate yourself from non-musical thoughts when in your "writing space." Eliminate any unnecessary distractions in the area. If you don't need to access the Internet, then unplug from it. Use a pen and paper instead of a computer to write? Don't have your computer next to you then. Break it down to the necessities for your writing and your writing will flow more easily.

Listen To Some Good Tunes
Sometimes you just need to listen to the songs that inspired you to become a musician or songs that you feel represent the kind of music you want to create. Some artists have been known to take another artist's song and jam on it to get inspired and create a new song out of that inspiration.

Look Everywhere for Inspiration
Don't limit yourself to just listening to your favorite artists for inspiration. Get out and find new, less obvious sources. Steve Vai's song "Bad Horsie" came from creating the sound of a horse neighing. He simply used his whammy bar to mimic that sound and later a whole song came from it. Look all around for ideas when you are writing.

Take a Break and Relax
Sometimes the easiest way to get those creative juices flowing is to stop trying to force them. Step away from your writing and get out in the sun. Take a walk, sit down and read, or even just take a nap. Do something to let you be at ease and not straining to create. Try meditating on what you have written so far, or just sit and let your mind wander. Go and grab yourself a snack if you're hungry. Snacks such as various nuts, berries, and seeds contain useful vitamins for improving mood and mental functions. Go and drink a big glass of cool water to make sure you are properly hydrated.

Break Away From The Normal
Sometimes you just have to get away from your "normal" writing method. Change the scenery and write at the park. Try writing on a different instrument or one you are less efficient at. Write specifically for an instrument you normally don't write for. Switch hands when you write your lyrics or try playing your instrument backwards. Create obstacles for your writing to force yourself to be more creative as you try to write.

Take The Red Pill and Free Your Mind
Sometimes you just need to "lose" your focus. By this I mean to not focus on any particular aspect of the song beyond the central theme. With your main theme in mind, start writing lyrics without lifting your pen, or fingers if typing, for several minutes. Don't stop during your writing until the time limit is up. Do not stop to evaluate or criticize what you've written. If you can't think of anything, then just write that you can't think of anything. This method is called Free Writing or Stream-of-Consciousness Writing. After writing for several minutes this way, then you will go back and look for anything that stands out. Take the "stand out" idea(s) and build from there.

You can do something similar for writing instrument parts. Set up an audio or video recorder of some kind and just start playing whatever comes to mind. There are a multitude of options for recording audio and video. With anything from a smartphone to a tablet or just a tape recorder, you can easily find a way to capture your ideas. Remember this isn't meant to be perfect. You are just letting your mind work and see what happens. You don't need a top-notch recording setup to do this. The quality of the audio/video only matters to the point that you can clearly hear what you played.

Just Have a Laugh At the Woes of Others
This doesn't mean to laugh at those who are truly misfortunate. But laughter is a great way to relax. Check out funny videos on Youtube, or for a more music-oriented laugh, watch Tenacious D's The Pick of Destiny.

James Higgins is a songwriting coach, performing guitarist and music teacher with 14 years of experience. Check out his blog Unveil Music to get the inside scoop on being an independent musician or book an online lesson with James.


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