It is common for songwriters to be asked where they find inspiration. Many aspiring songwriters become discouraged as they wonder how a 23-year-old Paul McCartney can write a song like Yesterday practically in his sleep (true story), whilst they struggle to scrape together a simple verse or melody.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about songwriting is to not wait for inspiration to come and hit me over the head. I actively seek it out. If you want to be inspired, you need to look for inspiration in the often mundane occurrences of day-to-day life. Choose to view everything as potential songwriting material.
Below are five ways to overcome the dreaded “writer’s block”:
1. Keep a journal. This is a great way to document significant events, emotions and epiphanies that can make for great songwriting material. If we don’t keep a record of these things, it can be easy to forget them as we continue moving forward with our busy lives. Keeping a journal can turn an abstract thought-process into something more concrete, allowing us to come back to the thought at our own convenience for further reflection. It also helps us to foster the habit of writing, which is vital for any songwriter.
2. Get out. It’s amazing what a simple change of scenery can do for making one feel inspired. If we sit at home all day, we are just not getting enough sensory input to push us into a creative mindset. So go for a walk, sit in a coffee shop, go somewhere you’ve never been before. Be on the lookout for inspiring things, and take note whenever you discover them (see below).
3. Carry a notebook. I rarely go anywhere without a notebook and a pen, and as a writer, neither should you. When I’m on a train, or sitting alone in a coffee shop, or in a doctor’s waiting room, I start scribbling. Sometimes I write random words, phrases, or proverbs. Other times, I’ll dimply doodle, or write down lyrics by other artists that I find inspiring. All of these things help to put me into a creative mindset. Carrying a notebook also means that I never miss an opportunity or let an inspiring moment go undocumented.
4. Listen to lots of music. It’s hard not to get inspired when you’re listening to great new music. Make a point of discovering new artists (and by that I mean new to you, not necessarily current) and listening to a wide variety of genres. If you can’t afford to buy records every week, visit NoiseTrade. There’s lots of fantastic music on there that you can download for free, and it’s totally legal! (Click here to download three of my own tracks, absolutely free.
5. Read. I believe that songs should tell a story. The best way to learn more about the art of story-telling is to read stories! Reading well-written books helps us to expand our vocabulary, and reading fiction stimulates the imagination. Books (both fiction and non-fiction) can provide us with a ready-made story or topic. There are countless songs that were written about/inspired by books. I aim to read at least one book a month, and advise you to do the same!
So there you have it – five active steps you can take to overcome writer’s block and find inspiration. Start implementing these things today and make them a habit! And be sure to send me all the beautiful songs you write as a result 😉