Musical inspiration

Finding Songwriting Inspiration That Can Keep You Going

Inspiration in its most basic terms is excitement. It’s that simple. If you’re inspired, you’re excited.

In the minds of most creators of music or other art forms, inspiration seems crucial. If you’re not inspired, you’re likely not writing.

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Except… many do write even when they don’t feel particularly inspired to do so. It is actually possible to be creative without feeling overly excited or inspired. Film score composers, for example, usually work to very tight schedules. How do they do it if they wake up “not feeling it?”

If you broaden your own personal definition of what inspiration means to you, you should be able to find the inner drive that can keep you writing daily.

Inspiration From Without

If you go through bouts of feeling uninspired, it probably means that you think of inspiration as something that comes from without. You get inspired when you see waterfalls, butterflies, or read an inspiring story of people overcoming adversities in their lives.

The problem with that kind of inspiration is that it is fleeting. We can only sustain that kind of excitement for very brief periods of time (hours, or a day or two) before we feel uninspired once again, and uninclined to write.

Inspiration from Within

The better kind of inspiration is the kind we generate within our own creative minds, where you actually create your own inspiration. The best source of inspiration is often your own success.

There are two main ways to create this kind of inspiration. First, listen to good songs you’ve already written, and remind yourself that you really can do this!

And second, write songs even if you don’t feel like it. Even without inspiration, the human mind is capable of creating musical ideas. As you build on those initial ideas, you’ll find that you get a small shot of excitement as you hear things come together.

The more you add to your initial ideas, the more inspiration your mind creates, and, like the proverbial perpetual motion machine, it keeps you going.

Songwriters are often surprised by this when they try it. And if you haven’t tried it, try it now, even if you feel completely uninspired: Grab your guitar or whichever instrument you use to write, and create a short chord progression or sing a melodic idea with whatever lyric pops into your mind.

Then, since repetition of ideas is so important in good songwriting, try repeating that idea. Maybe repeat it exactly, or try an approximate repeat (like the first couple of lines of “Big Yellow Taxi”, as an example).

Each time you add to your idea, you should feel a shot of excitement. That’s your inspiration to keep going.

As you find that ideas aren’t easily forthcoming, put the song away. Don’t let frustration grab hold. Try listening to good music, then take the song out again and try some more.

In my own writing, I’ve often found that the times I write seemingly without inspiration are the times that I write my best music. I feel inspiration being generated as I write, and to me, that’s far more valuable than inspiration that comes from without.

I wonder if you’ll find the same to be true.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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