Songwriting targets work when there are real goals with real consequences for missing them.
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It’s fine to say that songwriting should be a daily activity, but there are days when it seems difficult to impossible to find the time, and even when you do, that’s no guarantee that you’re ready and able to write. Setting songwriting targets that are reasonable and likely to give you good results takes a considerable amount of planning. But once you get the formula right, you will reap the rewards!
Here are some tips for creating and keeping to a daily songwriting schedule.
- Daily, but not daily. First of all, don’t assume that you aren’t allowed a day off. Like any creative activity, songwriting does happen best when you are rested and mentally sharp. That means that five out of seven days per week should be considered reasonable.
- Set a 2-hour maximum. There will be days that you can write for longer, but your productivity will diminish as you work. Keep it to 2 hours or less. On any day that you have 3 or more hours of non-musical activities (work, school, etc.), consider cutting that to 1 hour or so. You may feel that your lack of a schedule previously means you should “punish” yourself by increasing your writing time, but it’s more likely to lead to frustration. Cut yourself some slack and work only until you feel your mind is wandering.
- Stick to any schedule you create for yourself. Treat it as seriously as you treat a work schedule. If 7 pm is your time to write, set an alarm and get writing!
- Try to get at least 15 minutes of downtime before writing. Don’t schedule your songwriting so that you must leave work, go home, walk in the door and start writing. Give yourself an opportunity to clear your mind, have a cup of tea, and think a bit about what you’re going to be working on.
- Set real targets. A target like, “I’m going to write every day” is too vague, and will offer no incentive. Setting something real, and reachable, such as a new song every week, will actually mean something.
- Punish yourself for missed targets. It’s best to do this in conjunction with a friend or family member, and make sure that you keep this fun. Just like something goofy you must do when you lose a bet, or your favourite team loses, setting a punishment for missed targets is a fun way to keep you focused and keep songwriting as something that’s entertaining but serious. Choose a friend to be “judge”, and let them set the punishment. You get to OK the punishment, but once you agree, you must do (or wear, as the case may be) the embarrassing thing.
These are some of the things I’m writing about in a new book I am working on for Jawbone Press (U.K.) called “Beating Songwriter’s Block: Using Your Imagination To Start Writing Again.” I’ll keep you updated with information regarding a publication date once I know more.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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