guitar and music paper

Is Writing Quickly a Help or a Hindrance?

Everyone’s got their own comfort zone when it comes to how quickly they can write music. Some need time to assess as they write, while others are okay with writing quickly, leaving the evaluating of musical ideas until much later in the songwriting process.

Comfort level aside, there could be something to be said for writing quickly as a creative exercise. In other words, you might find that there are benefits to — for lack of a better term — forcing yourself to write music quickly.

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If you’re the kind of songwriter who constantly assesses and perhaps overly criticizes the songs you write as you’re writing them, you may actually get the most benefit from speedwriting. That’s because speedwriting will only really work if you silence your inner critic: you simply don’t have time to get overly critical.

And by speedwriting, I mean trying to complete a song in a ridiculously (some would say) short period of time, like five to eight minutes.

Other than silencing your inner critic, is there any other good reason to try speedwriting?

One good reason is that even if what you’ve written is weak and needs a lot more work before it actually sounds as good as you want it, you’ve avoided the biggest problem that leads to writer’s block: the blank page. By getting something quickly written down, you at least have something you can fix. It’s hard to fix a blank page.

Sometimes the most creative things we do come from ideas that happen quickly. You get a chance to hear what your creative mind is capable of, unencumbered by the responsibility of evaluating, polishing and fixing.

Speedwriting can yield some impressive musical results. And even if what you’ve come up with isn’t up to your usual standards, you can then take the time to fix and improve that first attempt. There’s nothing like having a completed song within minutes of starting, and moving as quickly as possible into the editing phase.

If you’ve been trying some speedwriting, please feel free to put a link to your song in the comments below. I’d love to hear it.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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One Comment

  1. Gary:

    I’ve tried both – speed writing and “slow roast.” In the end, I’ve found little difference in the final outcome. For me, the former is anxiety-inducing, much like an athletic competition. It initially produces higher quantity but lower quality. The slow roast method feels to me more like a craftsman at his workbench. However, dead ends – temporary or permanent, are more frequent. The best route may be using both methods – not defaulting to a simple mathematical split of 50/50, but employing the lesser used method at least some percentage of the time (maybe 10 – 20%) may keep the composer on his/her musical toes. Over time, the tried and true more productive method may become less so. The percentages are not static and are always subject to change.

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