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You’re sitting down in your home studio with a cup of coffee in your hand, and your guitar on your lap, and it hits you: writer’s block. Rather than power through it, it makes more sense to take a day off and find a way to get re-inspired, right?
Ask any writer in Nashville and you’ll quickly find out that waiting for inspiration can be a quick death to your career as a songwriter. In fact, even in the Los Angeles and New York markets, writers can often have between one and four co-writing sessions a day — meaning that if they can’t write, they might not be paid.
So how do you train yourself to be able to write a song a day?
1. Set aside designated writing time.
Honestly, it’s never easy to find time to sit down and write. In fact, most of the writers and artists I’ve met also have full-time jobs on the side. Between regular work hours and their side-hustle gigs, most of the time they just want to crawl into bed after they get home. But, just like we manage to schedule our workouts, coffee breaks, and time for normal things like showering and eating, we can schedule time for ourselves to commit to writing.
Even if you only manage to give yourself half an hour of writing at a time, you’re a step closer to that song a day. Plus, limiting your time is actually also an effective tool (but we’ll cover that later). The most important thing is to commit and set aside time to focus on writing, so it isn’t competing with other things in your life.
2. Stop giving yourself excuses.
I don’t want to say that writer’s block is not a real thing, but I mean, it sure is one heck of a convenient excuse to get out of working. The truth is, if you’re stuck in a writing rut, there are always multiple ways to get out of it. For example:
- Go back and revisit an idea that didn’t sit well yesterday, or a month ago, or a year ago! (This is why it’s always smart to keep tons of song notes.)
- Write a new chord progression if you can’t think of a lyric first.
- Jam alongside some of your favorite records and jostle your brain into a musical frenzy.
- Try writing something that sounds like that artist, instead of yourself, to free up your creative boundaries.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re writing something! If you let yourself say it’s fine to take a day off whenever you don’t feel the inspiration coming naturally, you’ll never fill the song-a-day requirement.
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3. Don’t wait for inspiration; plant it.
Song seeds are little ideas that pop in (and often out of) your head that seem mildly interesting. Whether it’s a full-fledged concept or just a funny sentence one of your friends said to you over the phone the other night, write it down, and come back to it later.
If you sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, you’ll be waiting forever. Having that list of interesting ideas in the palm of your hand certainly makes turning the flow of inspiration on and off a lot easier and quicker.
4. Limit your writing time.
What? I thought you just said to set aside time to write!
Yes — and you should! But if you’re one of the many perfectionist artists out there (I know I am), sometimes limiting your time is the best way to make every minute count. You’re forced to make decisions quicker in order to pump out that song, ultimately training yourself to go with your gut and follow your instinct. You can always go back and edit later!
5. Treat writing like a job.
If you’re trying to make songwriting a job, you have to treat it like one. Imagine telling your boss you couldn’t finish that assignment he gave you because you couldn’t find the inspiration to do it. Yikes!
There are tons of benefits to writing with a friend or cohort. You have another person in the room — which means you have another brain in the room. If yours is tired and you’re not feeling up to generating ideas the entire session, working with somebody else might ignite an idea so exciting you can’t help but write it.
Co-writing also helps to create accountability. Nobody wants to put subpar work forward when there’s someone else trying to use it. And finally, this is another chance to practice quicker decision making. If you and your co-writer decided on a three-hour session, you’ve only got three hours to decide what to write.
Check out Sarah Spencer’s insightful article on how to find co-writers you’ll love working with to learn a bit more about what that entails. If all else fails, there’s still this final — and perhaps most important — tip.
7. Don’t be afraid to write sh**.
As Pat Pattison says in his online course based on his book, Writing Better Lyrics: “Don’t be afraid to write sh**. Sh** is the best fertilizer.”
Freeing yourself up from the need to write something amazing each and every time you sit down will actually make your ideas stronger in the long run. You’ll learn to trust the purity of your voice and instinct, and you’ll end up with a more unique sound, leaving your mind open to endless possibilities. And that takes a huge weight off your shoulders.
Besides, if you’re writing seven songs a week and just one of them is amazing, you’re in great hands!
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