There’s a concept in music called “making it.”
You know the story. “Making it” could be getting that big publishing deal, it could be getting the chance to perform in an awesome venue or at an event, or it could be a having your own band and recording your first few songs.
It’s interesting that, although we use the term “making it” in the music industry, most musicians and songwriters have this idea that someone else will give them their big break – be it a publishing company, and A&R agent or a booking agent.
The truth is, if you want to “make it,” you need to make it happen – you make your own opportunities.
It’s the same for inspiration.
Writer’s block is a big topic in the world of songwriting. It seems like it’s an impossible barrier that we will all inevitably face at one point or another. The ideas will be flowing, you’ll be on a roll, and then one day you’ll hit a brick wall and words won’t come out anymore. Sometimes the block will last a few hours, and sometimes you can feel like you’re stuck in a rut for days or even weeks.
Just like “making it,” inspiration seems like an uncontrollable force. Sometimes it’s there and you’ll write incredible songs, and sometimes it’s just not. But there are actually some things you can do to make inspiration something you control. If you want even more great songwriting tips, you can sign up for these free lessons.
1. Schedule Your Writing
This may sound overly simple, but the best way to find inspiration is to just write. Set aside a certain amount of time every single day to work on your songs whether you’re feeling inspired or not. Eventually your mind will know that when you sit down at your desk, it’s writing time, and you’ll be able to snap into the right state of mind almost immediately.
2. Always Carry a Journal
Although you can train yourself to get into the right mindset to write, inspiration will still strike you throughout the day when you least expect it. You could be doing something as mundane as sitting on a subway and the perfect song title or lyric line will hit you, and if you don’t write it down, you’ll often forget it before you get home.
With that in mind, always have some way to write your ideas down. You could carry a small journal, take notes in your phone or tablet, text yourself the lyrics, or record a short voice memo. Then, when you sit down in your writing chair, you’ll be able to come back to your ideas.
3. Challenge Yourself
With any activity, you’ll hit plateaus, and songwriting is no different. Even if you’re writing a lot of songs, you get this feeling that you’re not progressing, or that your lyrics seem to be different variations on the same thing.
A plateau is just a comfort zone. You get comfortable writing about certain themes, in certain keys, or with certain melodic phrases or song structures. And the only way to break out of that comfort zone is to challenge yourself. Set yourself little tests like writing a song about an everyday object, writing a song that modulates, writing a song that uses a particular word, or writing a song that’s under two minutes long. These exercises may not go on to be a top 40 hit, but they will help you expand your creativity.
The truth is, songwriting is a craft, and something you can learn to do better with practice and a plan. If you’d like more songwriting tips, you can sign up for these free lessons I created with Kevin Thomas, songwriter, teacher, and founder of Songwriting Planet. In the free lessons, we go through techniques that will help you write better lyrics and melodies, and then protect your songs and start growing a fanbase.