Songwriter - Pianist

Moving Your Musical Imagination in Different Directions

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How creative are you feeling today? Is this a day where you can tell you’re going to write something great, or does it feel more that you’re not likely to get a creative flow going?

I like to think of creativity as something different from imagination. To me (and I believe the research shows), your musical imagination is what comes up with ideas to try. Your sense of creativity is revealed by how — and whether or not — you can form those ideas into something tangible, like a song fragment.

So yes, it’s possible on any given day to be imaginative, but not overly creative.

So songwriting has two main stages, and they alternate many times during the process of writing a song:

  1. Imagining of a musical idea. You’re thinking of something — perhaps a chorus hook, a bit of chord progression, a catchy line of lyric, etc. — that you think has potential for being worked into a song.
  2. Creating, or adding to, a song fragment. You take that idea you’ve just imagined, and you build it into an existing song, or you begin creating a new song with it.

The Benefit of Separating Imagination from Creativity

There is a benefit to thinking of imagination and creativity as two separate processes within your brain: you can direct your imagination toward any creative outlet you’d like.

So on days when you feel that you just can’t write anything, don’t automatically assume that you aren’t being very imaginative. Your imagination might be working just fine, but the creative part — where you actually assemble all the bits your imagination have come up with into a song — might not be flowing so well for you.

That’s the reason I so often suggest to songwriters that they have other creative outlets. You may find that today, your creative mind is going to be more productive with a guitar in your hand. Or a paintbrush. Or a pencil for writing poetry. Or a tape measure for building a bookshelf.

When  you think of your musical imagination as being a separate entity from musical creation, it should open up a much larger world of musical (and extra-musical) possibilities.

And that larger world will make you feel more creative, and you’ll have a much more positive view of yourself on those days when it’s hard to write.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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