Writing Lyrics

Rewording a Sentence to Find a Lyrical Gem

Coming up with song ideas is hard. You start down a path and then you realize that whatever you thought your song was going to be about is just leading to dead ends.

There are lots of ways to stimulate your imagination. Sometimes just picking up a pencil and writing, stream-of-consciousness-style, can yield surprisingly good results. And then again, it can leave you feeling frustrated that you’ll never get that hour back.


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If you’re willing to try yet one more way to come up with something that could lead to an interesting lyric, read on.

In fact, if it works for you, you’ll find that it might also be a great way to create a song title from which you can start to pull together a lyric:

  1. Take a book from your shelf, open it, and read the first line you find. (I happened to pull a science book off my shelf, “Endless Universe”, and read this: “Many theorists remain hopeful despite the failures.”
  2. Take all or part of that sentence. In my case, I’ve got a choice of using “Many theorists remain hopeful”, and “hopeful despite the failures.” I like the second one for my choice.
  3. Write that sentence (or sentence fragment) down, and underneath it start replacing words, one at a time.

When I did that third step, I came up with this:

  • hopeful despite the failures.
  • hopeful despite my failures.
  • loving despite my failures.
  • loving despite defeat.
  • smiling despite defeat.

With each word change, you change the original line, and its original meaning, in subtle ways. If you found this line in your book: “He felt the blood drain from his face”, you could come up with:

  • felt the love drain from his life
  • felt the love fall from my life
  • felt the need fill my life

Sometimes what you discover is… nothing much, and then it’s time to turn the page and try another line. But more often than you think, you’ll discover a word combination or phrase that has possibilities.

And those possibilities can be a line of lyric that you can expand on, or it might be something that could serve as a song’s title: “Despite My Failures”, “From My Life”, “Hopeful”, etc.

When all is said and done, it’s simply one more way to borrow word ideas from someone else’s work, but borrowing them in a way that can excite your musical/lyrical imagination and come up with something that can grow into your next lyrical gem.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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