Songwriter in Home Studio

Writing Better – Writing More

You should not necessarily worry if it takes you weeks or months to write a complete song while all your songwriting colleagues are getting the job done in days, sometimes hours. How long it takes to finish a song rarely has anything to do with how good it is.

Having said that, it’s going to be frustrating if, after a year of writing, you’ve only got two songs to show for your efforts. Assuming there’s nothing obviously wrong with your process, is there a way you can speed things up, and write more?


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Writing Better as a First Step

Your first objective should be to evaluate the songs you do manage to write to completion. Some things to look for:

  1. Evaluate your songwriting process. A process is a good one for you if it’s stimulating your creative mind and generating ideas.
  2. Don’t obsess over the quality of your ideas too soon in the process. It’s often best to get a song working, even if you don’t like the lyric, the melody, or want a better progression.
  3. Once you’ve got a completed song, then start to improve it. By working to quickly get a song in some kind of finished state, you’ve got something concrete, something tangible, that you can work to improve. A blank page gives you nothing to evaluate, and so your overall process can grind to a frustrating halt.

Step 3 by itself will do much to speed up the songwriting process for you, but all 3 steps are a necessary first stage in becoming more prolific as a writer. Now it’s time to really focus on writing more.

Writing More as a Second Step

If you’re comfortable with your songwriting process, and feel that it’s giving you good quality ideas, it’s time to focus on writing more. Some things to try:

  1. Write several songs at the same time. Having several songs on the go at any one time has one particularly powerful advantage: it helps to prevent writer’s block. When your ideas for a song run dry, simply switch to another song, and work on it until that song gets momentarily stuck. Then move on to another. By keeping several songs going, you feel creative and prolific.
  2. Figure out a songwriting schedule that works for you. Most of us can find time on at least 5 out of 7 days per week to devote to writing. But simply planning to write isn’t often enough. Create a songwriting schedule, and then try as best you can to stick with it. Having even the best of intentions to write won’t often get the job done. Write your schedule down, and then do it.
  3. Use several songwriting processes. Starting every song the same way not only results in songs that all have a sameness about them — they also make you feel that you’re constantly working on the same song. So develop as many different processes as you can, and try to feel comfortable with each one. Lyrics first, chords first, melody first, and so on… with each possible way of starting, you’ll find that your creative mind engages the task of writing in a fresh, new way, and that alone will speed up the process. (And don’t forget collaborations as a great way to get more songs written.)

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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3 Comments

  1. A great addition thank you Gary! I like to keep a running log of ideas and songs I am working on, or editing and make sure that I don’t rush to release them for a specific deadline. I do think that deadlines can help us flesh out and complete our material with a good sense of urgency when it comes time for recording or project ends, but like I said I am always working on improving what’s already in my songs first, then when new inspiration comes I’ll start a new song.

    I find your work very helpful in my toolbox and also am excited for when that book called “SongMatrix” I linked comes out, as when I combine the two I think I’ll have a lot more techniques and insight to work with.

  2. Actually, it doesn’t matter how many songs you write. It matters how you APPLY your technique. You could write 1000 songs but if you aren’t consciously aware of what you are affecting, then it would only be a stroke of luck to come up with a hit or classic. According to this resource, great songwriters knew/know (the few today) and continuously write great material without having to rely on “productive workflows” or “songwriting exercises” of coming up with multiple ideas and randomly schmucking things together.

    https://www.songmatrix.com/index.html

    • Thanks very much for the comment. For some songwriters, it can matter a great deal how many songs they write: completing an album, compiling song lists for concerts, and so on. I think your point of focusing more on the quality of songs, and making songs consistently better, is a good one, and always a primary concern. My point was that if one were to want to write more songs, it’s best to focus on quality first, for the reasons you list.

      Thanks again,
      -Gary

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