Speedwriting helps to increase your creative abilities, even if the activity terrifies you.
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Speedwriting can be either fun or terrifying, depending on how you’re feeling on any given day. But there can be no doubt that speedwriting has a lot of benefits, and as a songwriter, you should treat it as an important exercise.
In practically every area of creative arts, you’ll find people who work speedwriting into their daily regimen. Authors in particular love the power, creativity and verbal prowess that come as a direct result of speedwriting.
For songwriters, it can be fun to set a timer for something ridiculously short, like, say, 3 minutes, and see what you come up with. But the main problem that songwriters face, which authors don’t usually have to deal with, is dealing with verses, choruses, bridges and other sections, all of which need to transition more-or-less seamlessly. That’s where speedwriting a song can create the biggest problems.
So let’s try to solve those design problems first. Here are some tips to help you get set up; they’ll increase the chance that you’ll be able to speed-write something worth keeping.
You should be able to do the following three steps in 30 seconds or less:
- Choose a basic song design as a starting point: verse-chorus, verse-chorus-bridge, or something else. Write out each section that you plan to use (see diagram below).
- Choose the first two chords of each section of your song.
- Create a first line of lyric.
So now you’ve got a basic framework. Get your instrument ready, as well as any materials you typically use to write: paper, pencils, smartphone, computer… whatever you like to use.
Get your sheet of paper where you wrote your song design so that you can refer to it as you work. It might look something like this:
To make this a true speedwriting activity, set a timer for 3-5 minutes, and then start. The idea here is to not set down rules for how this should happen. But there is one rule you may want to remember: Don’t second-guess, judge or criticize what you’ve written down. Don’t take time (yet) to go back and fix what you’ve written. The idea is to always move forward.
Once the timer tells you that the activity is finished, you may find that you haven’t even come close to finishing your song. That’s OK. Keep whatever you’ve written, set it aside, and get set up for a new song.
For each time you run this activity, try changing things up as much as possible. Try not to use the same song design twice in a row, and always choose different starting chords and a different lyric.
The more you try speedwriting, the easier you’ll find it. You’ll start to notice that you’re able to write songs that are “keepers.” Once you’ve got something that’s got potential, then it’s time to go back and fix.
Don’t let the difficulty of speedwriting discourage you. It will be hard at first, but you’ll be surprised by how creative you start to feel, especially if you make this a daily part of your songwriting schedule.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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