Coffee Before Songwriting

Being Bored and Distracted While Writing Songs

It might alarm you, as you work on your next song, to discover that your mind is wandering and you feel — quite frankly — bored. Surely, if you’re bored as you work out your next tune, your audience is going to be bored as well.

Actually, boredom and being generally distracted while writing songs, is common, and can be quite useful. But more specifically, being bored before you write your next song can be an important part of the songwriting process. Here’s how that might work.

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Back in 2014, two researchers, Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, produced a paper in which they published findings of a set of experiments that measured the level of creativity in participants after they had engaged in some mundane tasks, like copying numbers out of a phone book, and then followed that activity up with a more creative task, like trying to come up with as many uses as they could for a pair of plastic cups.

The studies showed that the more mundane and passive the boring task was, the more creative the participants became when required to come up with imaginative solutions to problems. (You can read their abstract here: “Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative?“)

Mann and Cadman’s research may simply be showing something that many songwriters already know, which is that starting the creative process by doing something calming, such as sitting with a cup of coffee and daydreaming, or going for a walk, can actually put you in a better frame of mind for getting your daily songwriting tasks started.

Creativity is a complex aspect of being human. Generally, as you create one idea, you experience a shot of creative excitement that helps you to generate more ideas, often in quick succession. But it’s very common for that creative burst to dry up quickly and leave you feeling a bit empty — a bit creatively “stunted.” And that can happen several times within the same songwriting session.

It’s at that point that you need a bit of time to allow the creative juices to reestablish themselves. And as a songwriter, you’re probably quite familiar with the up and down of your creative powers.

Starting your songwriting process with something humdrum and distracting can set your mind up for something much more imaginative. In Mann and Cadman’s experiments, the activities were writing numbers out of a phone book, and then actually just reading the numbers in a phone book.

For you, it could be anything that allows your brain to move as far away as possible from songwriting. Maybe that Wordl that you play every morning suddenly has an important role to play!

In any case, it might be good to now think of those ten or fifteen minutes before you start your songwriting tasks for the day as an important part of the process. A mindless cup of coffee? I’m in favour of that!

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting ProcessThousands of songwriters are using “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting 10-eBook Bundle” to polish their songwriting technique. Discover the secrets to writing great melodies, lyrics, chords, and more. And get a FREE copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process”

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