5 Ideas For Getting (And Staying) Creative

Songwriting needs to be a daily activity. That kind of commitment will stimulate creativity.

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Songwriter - piano playerInspiration is not a necessary first step to writing music. Actually starting the songwriting process — grabbing your instrument and putting your bum in a chair — is the first step. And most people who write music for a living, whether it’s pop, jazz, country, Classical, or any other genre, will tell you that. Yes, it is very possible to write good music without being particularly inspired to do so. That initial step, of sitting down to write, is what will feed your sense of inspiration, and your musical excitement will usually grow from there.

Inspiration comes from musical activity, not usually the other way around. So when you feel inspired, and it feels as though that inspiration has enveloped you with no apparent cause, there’s usually something you can point to if you think about it long enough, something that has jump-started your brain into being creative.

That’s why almost any professional writer you ask will tell you that composing needs to be a daily activity if you’re serious about staving off writer’s block and becoming a prolific writer. Daily writing ensures that the biggest hurdle, the simple act of writing itself, has been overcome.

Beyond simply writing, there are other things you can do to get creative and stay creative. Here are 5 ideas that will help:

  1. Start your day with writing. It’s important to write every day, but there’s no reason that you can’t break the task up into 2 or 3 sessions. And actually starting your day — as in, before or directly after breakfast, and before heading off to school or work, will get you feeling successful right away. That feeling of “I haven’t written anything yet today” gets solved immediately.
  2. Start every songwriting session with some improvisation. This “free writing” technique often produces something that can serve as the starting point for a song. It puts your brain in music-mode, and writing music just feels easier.
  3. Look back at old snippets of music you’ve saved. This assumes that you save everything you write, and I certainly hope you do. So even if only parts of lyrics or one short piece of melody is all you can come up with, don’t throw any of it out. Save everything. From time to time, especially when it’s hard to get creative, dig out those old bits of music. It’s amazing how much great music is created by resurrecting something that was started much earlier. Singer-songwriter Sting mentions that it can sometimes take him years to write a song.
  4. Analyze music you’re listening to. Along with writing music, listening should also be a daily activity. But not just listening for entertainment’s sake. You need to engage in active, analytical listening. This means paying attention, and making note of what you’re hearing, what you like, what you dislike, and generally trying to understand what you’re listening to. It can help to keep a journal and keep notes about what you’re hearing. Here’s a post that teaches you the basics of analyzing music.
  5. Work on 2 (or more) projects at the same time. There’s no reason to limit your creative activities to one project. Many writers (composers, authors, and others) actually need to be working on several things at one time to meet various deadlines, and that actually helps the songwriting process. When you feel stumped with one song, switch gears and start working on another. That may seem a bit chaotic, but try it. It really works.

By far, the most important piece of advice here is to write often, write early, and stop waiting for inspiration. Give up on the idea that you must create a full song every time you sit down to write — you don’t. Don’t be afraid to start over, and never throw anything out.

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Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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2 Comments

  1. Hi Gary,

    You really hit home with the 5 ideas you’ve written here! Starting the day with writing is a great tip, especially for morning people like me. I’ve found that being productive in the morning helps to put the day in a good mood for me.

    I’m doing most of your suggestions above. Doing some “free writing” is definitely a fun way as it can also help a songwriter break free from his usual “go to” progressions or melodic patterns. Every songwriter should spend some time analyzing music, although too much analyzing can lead to analysis paralysis, in my experience.

    I like the idea of keeping recordings of old song ideas. However, there is a problem that a songwriter can feel stressed when looking at the huge bank of ideas collected over the years (I have a collection that’s collecting dust also). Nicholas Tozier wrote about this problem in one of his recent posts and actually recommends starting everything fresh.

    Here is the post for those who want another idea: http://nicholastozier.com/words/when-the-muse-is-late-to-her-own-party/

    Have you read the post, Gary? What do you think?

    Cheers.

    • Hi Endy:

      Yes, I’ve read the post, and he makes some very good remarks. However, I think it’s all in how you look at those fragments of music that you’ve stored away. If you think of them as failures, then yes, I could certainly see where the anguish would come from. All those failures! However, I think the better way to think of them is “great material”, just waiting for the right song. And they may never make it into a song, but there’s no particular need to feel stressed about that.

      Cheers!
      -Gary

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