- Published May 8, 2013 in Music 101
- Read time: about 2 minutes
History’s most influential artists were in a constant state of growth. To see what they saw and feel what they felt, you’ll need to open your eyes to the world around you, a little more each day.
Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind." And as a songwriter, how you prepare for inspiration can be just as important as the writing itself. Set yourself up for success every day and, when inspiration hits, you can live unencumbered in that creative moment.
1 Always be ready to capture lightning in a bottle.
You need to be prepared for inspiration to strike at a moment’s notice. That means always having some kind of recorder with you to sing out some musical ideas as they come to you. If you carry a smartphone around anyway, you should be good to go.
Most phones these days have an app for recording through the mic. This will do when you’re scrambling to get a melody out and need a quick way to remember it. It’s also a great way to get strange looks from other drivers while you’re stuck in traffic.
2 Learn to sketch with words.
Grab yourself a notebook and keep it with you always. I personally recommend a Moleskine, but any ol’ notebook will do. Then start training yourself to sum up a situation in a few simple words.
You don’t need to go for perfect haiku format or anything. The idea is to take a quick sketch of a feeling or moment in time. Maybe you are in the park and you see a couple arguing. Put yourself in their shoes a moment and try to sum it up. Think about what they could be talking about. Then quickly write down your thought. Maybe it’s something as simple as “Will our love weather this storm?”. Don’t labor it though. By design it should just be a quick flash of an idea. There’s no right or wrong here.
Next, jot a few words around the phrase to describe the scene. As you write, think about the five senses too: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
Whenever you find yourself waiting around somewhere, people-watch a bit and write out these little thoughts about what you see. Remember, you’re not writing a song, you’re planting seeds for later—that takes the pressure off. Then, when you are looking for a song idea, you can browse through your notebook and one of these short thoughts may jump out and get your creativity flowing.
3 Find the beauty in everything.
For some, it’s easy to dismiss certain artists and their music. Maybe it’s the latest overworked, autotuned-to-death track from whichever flavor of the month’s turn it is to be famous. Maybe you dislike Speed Metal or Polka. Everyone has their tastes. But to truly grow as a songwriter you should try to identify the positive aspects of all music.
Sure, this pop song sounds like a thousand others before it. But, that aside, what’s good about it? Does it have a cool beat? Is there a clever turn of phrase in the lyrics? There’s got to be something—however small—that you can appreciate. As you learn to look for those things, you will inevitably absorb them into your own songwriting—even on a subconscious level—and grow more each time as a result.