Songwriting Should Not Require Inspiration

From “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.

It’s nice when you’re inspired to write a great song, but good songs and and should  happen even without being particularly inspired.

For many, writing a song seems like some sort of magic: you just sit and think for a moment, and  chords, melodies and  lyrics just appear, as if the writer is under a sort of spell. That’s a neat thought, but for the best songwriters in the world, that’s simply not reality.

If you’re waiting for inspiration, you are, to put it bluntly, wasting time. Part of songwriting is inspiration, to be sure, but songwriting is mostly a skill, a skill that needs to be honed and practiced.

The writers that wait for inspiration rarely get beyond the first note or two before they run out of steam. Why? Because good songwriting is more about craft than it is about a whimsical feeling. Good songs are good because of their construction. It’s not magic! It’s got more to do with structure and logic than anything else. If you really want to write great songs consistently, you need to practice your songwriting craft.

Check out my online songwriting lessons. They’re free, and they’re meant to provide you with exercises and ideas that will keep the creative juices flowing.

Gary Ewer

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  1. I reckon you go through two stages as a songwriter: there’s the harvest stage, during which you write as much as possible in the sunshine of your creativity; then comes the refinement stage, in which you edit, tighten, and combine what you’ve written.

    The first requires genuine inspiration, or at least the appearance of it, and the second requires skill, graft, and practice. I’d say it’s hard to rule out genuine inspiration altogether, but I definitely respect the importance of skilled editing.

    • Very interesting point, esp. regarding your “harvest” analogy. I’ve always believed in inspiration, but I think the real gems come from one’s ability to hone editing skills. I think even the most prolific composers can count on one hand the number of songs they’ve written that are mostly the result of inspiration alone, and I think your comment doesn’t necessarily disagree with that. I think when musical ideas come to us, it’s always some form of inspiration. Then what we do with those ideas is a combination of experience and editing, with extra inspirational moments thrown in.

      Thanks very much for writing.

  2. Definitely agree with you Gary. The creative mind needs discipline. I feel that I’m more creatively agile and able because I spend time crafting, editing, structuring, and all of the other things needed for good songs.

    It’s so easy to blame one’s lack of output on some fickle muse. That is definitely a cop-out. You court the muse every time you sit down and just write.

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