It’s not unusual for songwriters to get a song started quickly, and then have everything slow down. You might start with a flurry of ideas that all come together with ease, and it can be exciting. But then you’ll notice the excitement fading a bit as you struggle to put things together – to make a final product.
That can be discouraging, but it’s important to remind yourself that a slowing down of the creative process is normal when writing music. After all, coming up with something hooky — something that grabs attention — can happen in seconds. The act of putting all those ideas together in an artistic way… well, that’s the real skill we call songwriting, and usually takes time.
If you find that you get only so far in your songwriting process, and then you feel everything grinding to a halt, here’s a thought: consider putting your song away for a day or two, as part of your songwriting process.
In other words, embrace that slowing down of your process as a normal occurrence, something that in fact should happen.
Remember that writing music happens in two interlinking stages:
- Imagining musical ideas. You come up with melodies, chords, lyrics, etc.
- Creating a final product. You put your melodies, chords and lyrics together in such a way that they support the final song.
As you will know, these two stages happen dozens of times through the entire process that results in one song. You imagine, then create, then move back to imagining more ideas, toss bad ideas, create some more, and so on.
But as you proceed, you’ll notice that you do more assembling than you do imagining new ideas. In other words, you’ve got the material you’re going to use, and so you’re spending most of your time trying to assemble the ideas. And that, as I say, takes time.
And downtime is a necessary part of helping your musical brain make sense of what you’re assembling. So here are some tips regarding putting songs away:
- Put songs away before frustration sets in. Don’t wait until you feel the negative side effects of being unable to solve a musical problem. Putting a song away for the day should ideally happen while you’re still feeling good about it, even in its unfinished state.
- Think positively about downtime. Your brain is still working on music even when you’re not thinking about it. There is an important subconscious process that goes on, and that process doesn’t get a chance unless you’re willing to take a break.
- Try starting a songwriting session with downtime. There is solid psychological evidence that the artistic brain works better when it’s bored. So start a writing session with a 15 minute break. Lie back, close your eyes and relax. You’ll find yourself feeling much more productive when you get up to write.
- Don’t put a time limit on how long a song is supposed to take. Because that varies, doesn’t it? One song will happen quickly, but other ones can take a long time. Length of time is usually not an indication of a problem.
You’ll find that in songwriting, frustration can be your biggest enemy. It brings on writer’s block, and makes you feel useless and angry. Accepting downtime as a part of your songwriting process is the best way I know for staying positive, and getting great results.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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