If You're Waiting For Inspiration, You're Wasting a Lot of Time

So what’s wrong with inspiration? Don’t the best songs in the world inspire us? And so doesn’t that require inspiration? The simple answer is: no, songwriting does not require you to be inspired. And in fact, if youare waiting for inspiration, that could be the source of that pesky writer’s block that keeps raising its head.

The role of inspiration in the songwriting process is greatly overrated. The songs that work the best, that really capture the audience and keeps them humming, come from a firm understanding of how the various components of songs work together, not necessarily from a feeling of inspiration at all.

There’s a great quote I love to use when talking about inspiration, which comes from the music critic Ernest Newman (1868-1959): “The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working.”

If you’ve written a great song, there may be elements within it that came from some feeling of inspiration. But in truth, why the song works is because you have a knowledge of how harmonies, melody, lyric, rhythm and form all work together. It’s your intelligence, your craft and your musical abilities that all combine to give birth to a great song. The fact that you may have been inspired to do it should not be confused as a necessary component of the songwriting process.

In short, you need to be able to write music whether you feel inspired to do so or not. Think of film score writers, or writers that are fulfilling a commission. They must write, whether they feel inspired to do so or not!

If your latest song came from an initial wave of inspiration, you are fortunate. But don’t worry if you have to write songs, and you don’t feel inspired to do so. You will probably find, as Ernest Newman says, that once you start putting all the components of your song together, your sense of inspiration will grow.

It’s far more important to develop your craft of songwriting, and if you’re waiting for inspiration, you’re probably simply wasting a ton of time.


Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website

Posted in Opinion, songwriting and tagged , , .


  1. From my perspective being a guitarist, one way to seek is to just pick up a guitar and play along -play a blues scale, doodle around with a riff, experiment with chords and harmonies and see if you can improvise some singing or lyrics etc…

    Other ways I’ve found are to sit down with a glass of wine and jam around, because it relaxes you. Keep a recorder handy ALWAYS, and if something original and inspiring pops up, record it, then build on it -that’s where the hard work comes in, molding melodies, lyrics, harmonic structures etc…

    Once you have whole bunches of song ideas, you can choose the cream of the crop to really focus on the best songs.

  2. Pingback: Inspiration is Overrated | Songwritopia

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