I have a sticky note on the wall of my office that says: “WRITE MORE SONGS. WRITE BAD SONGS. WRITE GOOD SONGS. JUST WRITE SONGS.” My hope was that would inspire me to bust out my instrument a little more often and get something ready to publish. But nope, that didn’t happen. So a little while ago I decided that it was time to confront one of my biggest demons as a songwriter: my perfectionist streak which was contributing to writer’s block.
I gave myself a challenge. Each week, I had to write a song in one hour. I asked my facebook friends for title suggestions, and then I would pick one that resonated and go for it. The songs weren’t perfect, but that wasn’t the point. They got done, and I learned a lot in the process. Here are some of my favourite take-aways:
- That line you’re stuck on? You know the one, with that obvious rhyme that just feels cliche so you’re waiting for a better idea to come along. Or maybe it just doesn’t quite make sense. Oh well, just write it down anyway. It can always be changed later. Often those lines are bottlenecks and the rest of the song is waiting to follow.
- Let yourself be surprised. Once in awhile I’d be improvising and there’d be a line that I’d immediately dismiss because I just couldn’t imagine it going anywhere, or because I thought it was too obvious, or whatever. Giving myself permission to explore those possibilities has expanded my range as a songwriter significantly. For example, I was surprised to discover that the line, “I’m calling the president” over a bluesy lick turned into my first protest song ever. I felt huge resistance to singing those words, because it felt preachy and because I just couldn’t imagine it going anywhere interesting. In the end I was super happy with it.
- Treat it like a school assignment that you’re not getting graded on and maybe not even terribly invested in. I know it sounds awful, because many of us tend to hold art as this sacred thing. Instead, make the creative space as the sacred thing, and just get some words on the page. As Julia Cameron writes, it’s like this: “Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”
These three things have changed my songwriting forever, and allowed me to write more songs last year than I ever have before. If you want to write more songs, maybe consider joining me in my 6 Week 1h Songwriting Challenge! It’s a pretty awesome way to step outside your creative comfort zone, and it’s totally free (for now)!