The Process Part 2: Don't Hold Yourself Back
How have you been, and how's the writing coming? Me, I've been juggling live music three to four times a week, working on songs and writing this blog. It's been pretty crazy but I'm committed to it. I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it. I enjoy reading your comments so keep them coming! Make sure you subscribe to my email list below to get notifications when I post new blog entries. Check out my Facebook page as well, it's where I debut new songs and announce shows! Now without further ado let's get into part two of The Process!
In this series I'll be explaining skills you can put into practice to improve your songwriting. They've helped me in my writing and they can do the same for you. Whether you're just starting out or have been writing for years I'm confident there's something here for you.
In this second part of The Process, we discuss listening to yourself as well as ignoring yourself when necessary. If you're just joining us, make sure you go back and read part one for additional tips! As we progress we'll be digging deeper into the writing and performance process, stay tuned!
5) Take Notes: So you're in the car driving down the highway and suddenly a great new lyric pops into your head, what do you do? One thing I do is call my own number and leave a voicemail singing or speaking the lyrics. Here's the thing you need to remember, your memory is both better and worse than you think. When I'm playing a six-minute song sometimes I'll amaze myself like how the hell did I remember all of those lyrics? So yeah you might surprise yourself that way but on the other hand we all forget important things from one second to the next. If you've every said "well if it was important I would have remembered it," I'm imploring you to take a different approach! Back in the day everyone had to have a pen and pad on them but in these days of smart phones and tablets you have no excuse! Either record yourself speaking, singing or text or email it to yourself. There have been studies that say writing something down improves memorization. So if you recorded it I'd recommend writing it down as well when you get home! Take notes and record because ideas will not stick around and no you won't remember them in the morning!
6) Silence your internal editor: We are all our own worst critics, this is both a good and bad thing. Sometimes criticism is justified and will make you a better writer. It's when criticism hinders productivity that it becomes a problem. We all have an internal editor that tells us what we are thinking is stupid and not worth writing down. That internal editor is almost always wrong, ignore your editor and get it on the page! Often we don't fully appreciate what we have until we've had the time to appreciate it.
Try this stream of consciousness exercise and let me know how it works for you! This is a good exercise for when you can't think of anything to write. Give yourself a ten-minute limit and start writing. Write anything and everything that comes to mind. The key is don't pause, keep your hand writing as fast as you can. If your mind goes blank keep writing the last word you wrote until a new thought pops up. Practice this on a regular basis and you should see a noticeable increase in the amount of writing you get on the page. Much of this writing won't be useable but we all have to write a ton of crap before something worth using appears.
7) Chisel away excess: So you've written a song or at least have a big bulky outline of a song on the page. You aren't happy with it, good you shouldn't be! We don't just write songs, we write them and edit, polish, agonize over, play over and over etc. Many songs that are regarded as bad have generally good ideas, they just haven't been properly polished. One of the first things I do when I go through a rough song I've written is I make sure I'm not saying the same thing multiple times. It's surprising how many times I'll find a line restating something I've already said or have insinuated in an earlier line. Each line is an opportunity to elaborate and pull the listener in deeper, don't waste any space!
The next thing I do is play the song over and over while cutting or editing anything that ruins the flow. I also look to see if I can be more specific if I feel the story warrants that. There are times when saying "the woman" is preferable to saying "Sarah." There are times when saying "crimson" works better than saying red. There's a fine line between using descriptive language effectively and attempting to sound intelligent, tread carefully!
8) Learn from others instead of drawing comparisons - Have you ever listened to your favorite artist and said I'll never be that good? When you listen to an artist in their prime you're listening to someone who has perfected their craft and delivery over many years. And believe me they themselves do not think they are perfect. More than likely they wish they were as good as some other artist. There was a great interview with Bob Dylan a few years ago and they were asking him about his early songwriting. I'm paraphrasing but he said I can do some things I couldn't do back then but I can't do that anymore. It's good to remember that everything we write is a product of where we are at that moment. Focus on writing good songs and the rest will follow. Great artists are consistent in the quality of what they produce.
Another thing I want to touch on is as an artist you will cover topics that have been covered before. Don't waste time entertaining the part of your brain that says it's been said before so there's no point in writing it. There is a point in writing it as long as you write it from your own unique point of view! Say you're writing a love song, write it as if you were writing the first love song!
Thanks so much for reading this, I hope you've found it useful! Share this with anyone you think it could benefit! Please Like and Comment because it helps build our community! Who is your favorite songwriter and what qualities make them unique? Until next time my friends, keep writing great songs!
Songwriting Confidence Builder #368: Next time you're in the grocery store or pharmacy stop what you're doing and listen. Listen to the lyrics of the music playing over the speakers!