Songwriter in nature

Finding More Sources of Songwriting Inspiration

If you’re a composer of music who is required to be writing daily (film score composers, for example), you know that you can’t count on a steady supply of inspiration to keep you writing. You know you’re going to have days when you feel the excitement that inspiration provides, but lots of other days when your creative mind feels dry.

So what do you do when you can’t find the inspiration that gets you excited enough to write?

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Inspiration is all around us, but if you have days when you’re not feeling it, it’s possibly because you’re relying too much on externally-sourced inspiration, and not the kind that can and should come from within: internally-sourced inspiration. Here’s more about what I’m describing.

For songwriters, there are three major sources of inspiration:

  1. Events, circumstances, places and people. By these, we’re talking about things that generate a strong emotional response within your creative mind. You witness the birth of a child, loss of a loved one, or perhaps you get in touch with nature.
  2. Other musicians’ music. You get excited when you hear a good song, and it kickstarts your artistic brain and makes you want to do something similar.
  3. Your own songwriting process. As you write, you get excited by the ideas you’re creating, and those ideas spur you on — make you want to keep going.

The best kind — the kind of inspiration that will take you furthest — is the third one on that list: your own songwriting process.

Your Songwriting Process is a Self-Generating Source of Inspiration

Your own songwriting can generate excitement within you. With every idea you create, you feel a momentary jolt of excitement, and it makes you want to write more. As you continue to compose, you find yourself getting excited about those new ideas, and on it goes.

The problem with the other sources of inspiration is that they are fleeting, and it requires “going out to find them”, if you will. There’s no denying that a great song by your songwriting hero will be an important source of inspiration, but that kind of excitement typically wanes, and then you’re back to where you started: trying to find creative excitement again.

So how do you make sure that your own songwriting process is giving you the kind of excitement that keeps you writing daily? It’s not a mystery: Set up a songwriting schedule that keeps you writing at least five days out of seven, and you will have done the most important thing you can do.

To make sure that your writing keeps you excited, remember these tips:

  1. Scale your daily songwriting expectations down if necessary. If you’re simply getting nowhere trying to write a song on a given day, try smaller projects. Perhaps spend your time inventing great song titles, come up with short descriptive lines of lyrics (even if you don’t know how you’d use them)… that sort of thing.
  2. Make your songwriting schedule sensibleIf you’ve just done an 8-hour shift at work, or have a big exam the next day, scale your songwriting activities to match. Don’t guilt yourself into writing; that just doesn’t work.
  3. Listen to older songs that you’ve written as a source of inspiration. I do this all the time. When I feel uninspired, I’ll sometimes listen to something I’ve written a year or two ago, and it gets me excited enough to feel like writing again.
  4. Choose a “songwriter of the day,” and listen to their music. Do some research and find a songwriter you never knew before, and get familiar with their music. You’re more likely to generate new excitement over a “new to you” songwriter than you are over a songwriter whose music is already known to you.
  5. Always work to improve your songwriting technique. Songwriting must be more than assembling random ideas to see what comes out of it. Studying past hits and hitmakers allows you the benefit of learning from those who have already solved many of the songwriting problems you’re trying to solve for yourself.


Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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