Anyone who possesses creativity will tell you it isn’t like a light switch. You can’t flip it on and off at will. Sometimes you will have a burst of inspiration that keeps you writing well into the night. Other times, you’ll find yourself in a creative drought that feels like it will last forever.
To keep the creative juices flowing, draw inspiration from everyday people and places, and give yourself a change of scenery when you need it. Thwart writer’s block by expanding your horizons and making yourself write even when you don’t feel like it. Learn to generate ideas your audience will respond to.
Once you master all of these skills, you will set yourself apart from the majority of songwriters. Don’t let a creative drought impact your productivity; follow these simple steps to produce unique ideas and relatable lyrics, using your own life as a creative launch pad.
Tip #1 – Soak Up Inspiration
The key to coming up with great song ideas is to open your mind and pay attention to everything around you. Some songwriters are inspired by the music they hear. Others are motivated by certain situations, places, or people.
Archetypical ideas serve as inspiration to millions of people. Love, hate, revenge, loneliness, happiness, sadness, and dissatisfaction are all cornerstones of the human experience. People respond to those ideas because they can relate to them. Look at the overarching themes in your own life and use them as the basis for your next song.
It’s hard to get inspired if you never have the chance. If you work indoors all day, make an effort to get outside and reconnect with nature. Meet new people and listen to their stories. Take a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited. Talk to your parents and grandparents for a dose of nostalgia. Make your mind like a sponge that soaks up inspiration from every source, and then transform your observations into workable ideas.
Remember, your “muse” can strike at any time, and not always when it’s most convenient! To avoid losing ideas that pop up in the middle of the night, keep a journal beside your bed so you can jot them down while they’re fresh.
Tip #2 – Broaden Your Horizons
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different musical genres. Many songwriters draw inspiration from all kinds of styles. You might hear someone say they took their songwriting cues from pop music, rock, country, or hip-hop – or all of the above!
The most successful songwriters surround themselves with music. If you’re familiar with only a few different musical styles, you’re selling yourself short! Each genre may have plenty of talent, but only a few standout artists. To ensure that your songs are different from the rest, branch out and listen to artists who, at first glance, might not be seem like part of your ‘scene’. To keep your song from getting lost in the crowd, you’ll need to give it star quality.
Most ideas have been done before–some of them over and over again. The secret is to put your own personal spin on these ideas instead of just rehashing them. Blend elements from many different genres to create a sound that is uniquely yours.
And don’t limit yourself to the most popular musical genres. Delve into obscure sub-genres and independent music to find fresh sounds and ideas.
Tip #3 – Generating Ideas
Ideas, like inspiration, can strike at any hour of the day or night. It’s very frustrating to have a vague memory of a great idea, but not be able to recall enough details to flesh it out. No matter where you are, try to get your ideas down on paper before you forget them.
If you’re experiencing writer’s block and can’t come up with any good ideas, you’re not alone! Most writers experience this frustration at some point. The only way to conquer writer’s block is to just keep writing.
First, look for song ideas in aspects of your own life. What experiences have you had that people can easily relate to? For example, you might have fallen in love at first sight, had a bad break-up, or come to the realization that there is more to life than earning a paycheck. Many people can relate to those situations, and they will enjoy listening to a song that expresses their feelings.
Maybe you’ve had a transformative experience in your life, such as an addiction or the death of a loved one. If you’re comfortable sharing it, this type of compelling story can make for powerful songwriting. Your audience will either relate to the lyrics on a deep level, or they will admire your courage for writing such a heartfelt piece.
Some of the best songs were written in a collaborative effort. Work with other writers by arranging a local meet-up or joining an online community where you can toss ideas back and forth. It’s fine to discuss broad concepts in public forums, but keep your specific ideas to yourself unless you completely trust the people you’re communicating with.
It’s a sad fact that song ideas get stolen, and if someone else capitalizes on yours before you do, you’ll either lose out on the credit (and royalties) or face a lengthy legal battle in an attempt to get your due rewards.
Tip #4 – Consider Your Audience
The people who listen to your music should have a say in the kind of songs you write. If you already have a fan base, you should strive to give them what they want. For instance, if your audience consists mostly of teens and their parents, you won’t want to use suggestive or violent lyrics. If you’re targeting a more hardcore audience, they probably won’t appreciate a “bubble-gum pop” sound.
That said, you have to allow yourself room to grow as a songwriter. It takes practice, but you can vary your writing style and explore new themes without alienating your audience. For example, you can structure your song or write your lyrics in a way that isn’t often heard in your genre, while still trying to keep the overall song within the standards of your defined style.
Singability is another consideration. You want to write songs that people will enjoy listening to and singing along with. If your lyrics are too controversial, people might hesitate to play your music in public or to sing along in front of others.
Of course, there may be times when a song you’re writing calls for edgier lyrics. Feel free to write them, but also produce other songs that are suitable for all ages. The more universal, wholesome music is more likely to be sold, picked up by radio stations, and even licensed for commercial use.
Tip #5 – Write What You Know
If you were born into a blue-collar family, you’d have a hard time writing songs about being rich. Likewise, someone who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouth might not be able to produce credible lyrics about the challenges of poverty.
Your audience doesn’t want to be duped. They know the entertainment industry is rooted in fantasy, but they appreciate artists and songwriters who keep things real. You can do this by writing about what you know.
The more authentic your experiences, the more authentic your writing will be. Draw inspiration from the people and events that shaped your life. Even if you think your life story has been uneventful, or that it’s too unusual for people to relate to, you may be surprised by the number of people who will enjoy hearing about it.