“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle” comes with an excellent Study Guide that’s meant to get your songwriting moving in the right direction. Also comes with a FREE eBook, “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process.”
Writer’s block causes you great anxiety because when you’re suffering from it, there’s no way of knowing 1) how bad it’s going to get or 2) how long it’s going to last. You might simply be having a day of difficulties, or you might be at the start of something more involved.
When an athlete, like a hockey player, is going through a goal-scoring drought, they often find that just getting one goal scored can finally get things moving in the right direction. That one goal can take the pressure off, and suddenly they’re back to their regular goal-scoring self.
With songwriting, every time you sit down to write — but where nothing happens — you feel the grip of writer’s block tightening. At those times, success is the only good antidote.
One of the best ways to ensure that success happens is, for at least a day or two, to stop trying to write entire songs, but focus instead on writing small fragments.
An entire song gives your creative mind too many opportunities to cramp up and feel unsuccessful. So don’t give writer’s block the opportunity to strengthen its grasp. Try these ideas instead:
- Write one short line of lyric, and then write three lines that could act as good followers to that line. If you’re finding hard to come up with a first line, go to a lyrics page online, find a line from a song you don’t know, and come up with your own answering lines.
- Create a two-chord progression and improvise short melodic ideas above it. By limiting the progression to just two chords, you’ll find that practically any two chords will work. And as you improvise your melodies, resist the impulse to judge. Be comfortable with the fact that some ideas will be good, some won’t, and move on.
- Create word pairs. Choose a single word, like “hope”, and make a short list of words that would act either as a synonym, or as a good partner word. So with “hope”, you might write: “peace”, “heart”, “wish”, “aspire”, “hold”, and so on. Even though you can always consult a thesaurus or dictionary to find synonyms, doing it this way means that you’ll be coming up with words that you’re more likely to use in a lyric.
- Do chord substitutions. Create (or borrow from another song) a short 3- to 5-chord progression. Play it on guitar or keyboard repeatedly until it feels comfortable under your fingers. Now, choose one chord in the progression that you’re going to try to find a substitute for. For example, you might choose: C Dm F G C. You night choose to replace F with, let’s say, Am. That would give you: C Dm Am G C.
- Create song titles. This can be fun because you don’t have to know yet how you’d use these titles: you don’t have any lyrics to go with them yet. But don’t worry about that. Often you’ll find that clichés and other expressions actually make pretty good song titles. “Living for Tomorrow”, “Digging My Own Grave”, “Can’t See the Forest For the Trees”, “The Sun’s Always Brighter When It’s Yesterday”, etc.
Doing these kinds of activities means taking the pressure off having to create an entire song. Your success rate with any one of these tiny tasks will be high because there’s only one short thing you have to do.
Success has a way of helping your creative mind break through the block it’s currently going through. And with these short musical tasks, you’ll also have an added bonus: you may just give yourself an idea of what your next song could be!
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
The best songwriters are best because of the power of the words they use. Read “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process” in order to become a better lyricist. It’s a FREE add-on to “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle.”