Getting Pumped By Your Own Songwriting Ideas: That’s Vital

Discovering the difference between imagination and creativity is a crucial part of musical success.

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Singer-songwriter-guitaristIn a nutshell, here’s how the creative process works when you write songs:

  1. You imagine a short musical idea.
  2. You get excited and inspired by your idea.
  3. That excitement stimulates your creative brain.
  4. You generate more ideas to tag onto the first one.
  5. You throw out any ideas that don’t work, and generate new ones.
  6. Keep the ideas that partner well with whichever ideas you’ve gathered.
  7. Keep doing this until your song is complete.

As you can see, songwriting is a combination of being imaginative (that’s Step 1) and being creative (that’s Step 4). In between Steps 1 and 4, you get excited and inspired. The steps after Step 4 are the ones that allow you to see your song taking shape.

And though the seven steps sound a bit simplistic, and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, writing songs really does amount to that.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” - Can't get past the hook?Songwriter’s block often happens because the quality of your imagined ideas is poor. So if you’re suffering from a creative block right now, to the extent that you can’t even start a song, you’ll see that Step 1 is causing you problems, which means that Step 2 isn’t happening for you. And of course, none of the other steps are happening either.

If you’re halfway through a song, and you feel unable to continue, it’s Step 5 that’s the problem step.

You can learn a lot about the creative process by looking through those seven steps. For example:

  1. It is possible to be imaginative without being creative.
  2. Songwriting success depends on the quality of the musical ideas you generate in the first place.
  3. You can be a brilliant teacher of creative songwriting while suffering from writer’s block.
  4. Inspiration is Step 2, not Step 1.
  5. Too many people count the number of ideas they throw out, and get musically depressed by it.
  6. The amount of time that passes between generating one musical idea and the next one is usually irrelevant.
  7. You can get musically excited to write music (Step 3) by doing something unmusical, such as attending an art exhibit, learning to dance, writing poetry, or building a bookcase.

Though it may seem difficult, a creative person should be able to write a song even in the absence of an initial shot of excitement or inspiration. In fact, most composers who write to fill commissions, or who write films scores, don’t have the luxury of waiting to be inspired. Waiting is wasteful.

Most experienced writers learn that the best source of inspiration is the inspiration that comes from hearing their own musical ideas taking shape.

So that means that the best cure for mild or moderate writer’s block is: start writing.

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  1. I think inspiration is overrated. It’s great when inspiration strikes, but waiting for the muse to appear is usually a waste of time. I’m a firm believer in encouraging inspiration by putting in the work of playing, writing, recording, and listening to other music. Many of my best, most “inspired” ideas arise when I’m idly strumming my guitar, or learning a cover, or fiddling with a chord progression that has yet to find a particular purpose. It’s always easier to not write a song than to try to write one, so waiting for inspiration too often becomes an excuse to not work. Anyone who’s serious about songwriting should work on it every day, even when it feels like a chore.

  2. Pingback: Interesting Links For Musicians and Songwritiers – July 24, 2015 | Creative Music | Inspiring Musical Creativity

  3. Thanks for sharing, I’m still learning the songwriting steps and I find it hard to accept my musical ideas at times. Recently I feel that they’re too simple, sometimes imitative, and most of the time I seem to lost my style to a boring idea 🙁

    • Being dissatisfied is not a bad thing. In fact, the first important step to improving your songwriting technique is being unhappy with what you’ve been doing. If you feel that your ideas are too simple, being dissatisfied is a vital first step. You’re probably on the verge of an important development in your life as a songwriter.

      Keep at it!

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