Don’t Know What To Write About In Your Music? Here Are Four Tips

Lots of potentially phenomenal songwriters often fantasize about writing music but can’t bring themselves to write a song. For some, the problem is rooted in a lack of confidence and the paralyzing fear of being made vulnerable through music. But for other musicians, a complete lack of knowing what to write about is the culprit.

Knowing what to write songs about can be a challenge even for experienced songwriters, so this is a problem that plagues most writers eventually. Here’s five tips designed to help get you thinking about what to write about in your music:

1. Write a fictional story and develop characters

In 2018, there’s more to write music about than ever before, but understanding and interpreting the increasingly fraught world around us through music is no easy task. Using fictional narratives and characters in your music as a way to talk about the complexities of the world around you and within yourself is a good way to make meaningful music. And while fictional stories in music can help you talk about serious things, the stories in your songs don’t always have to be heavy.

2. Make music about your family

This tip certainly won’t work for every musician, but the nuance and complexity within your own family is something most people can relate to. Incredible music has been inspired by births, deaths, and estrangements, so using your family as songwriting fodder is certainly capable of producing great results.

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3. Find something interesting in your daily routine and write about it

There’s most likely emotional value and nuance in your work and personal life whether you realize it or not. Rather than relying on something hackneyed and unartistic like the sunrise you see every morning on your way to work, try looking for the more subtle joys, observations, and devastations hiding in the world around you. This isn’t easy, but the most impactful music is able to reach and relate to people, so keep that in mind when looking for parts of your daily life experience to write about.

4. Write about your struggles

The musicians who hate this advice are the ones who would most likely benefit the most from it. Though there’s plenty of exceptions, most impactful music out there was written under times of heartbreak, struggle, and loss. Now, I’m not talking about the “my girlfriend of two months dumped me” kind of situation but something much deeper. If you can be real, transparent, and unflinchingly honest about your struggles within your music, you’ll have the best chance of speaking to listeners in a way they’ll remember and appreciate. The best songs have an ability to comfort and resonate with people, and you won’t be able to get into that sort of emotional headspace if you’re too concerned with looking cool, strong, and together. If you take the time to honestly think about the losses you’ve faced in your life, you’ll realize you have more to write about than you can probably imagine.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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  • DONALD McCREA - March 1, 2018 reply

    as this universe is a cornucopia of information, light, power, and love, there is a wealth of subject matter for songwriting…(and, even after sixty years, of churning out the songs, i still find it a fascinating method for exporing ones psyche and life)…
    it’s about PASSION, DRIVE, and FOCUS…so, the challenge in creativity is to discover your (writing) voice, and keep reinventing your angle of attack…avoid the obvious influences, and seek out inspiration from outside of music, as the core of this discipline is to tell a unique and powerful story…it helps to create videos for your songs, as that develops your ability to paint a complete picture….. so, breathe life in, synthesize the energy, and breathe it back out…by releasing that yin intuitive power, without letting the yang analytical aspect interfere, you can manifest something in its purest form…keep it simple and conversational, and get the details dialed in…
    ultimately, it helps to conceive of a body of work where the songs inform each other…(i’ve spent the past twenty years constructing my MIGRATION project, which explores America from coast to coast)….
    good luck and keep on rockin’….donald

  • Anthony Brewer - March 1, 2018 reply

    This is very helpful that seems to be my problem at times not knowing what to write about thanks for the advice!😄💯

  • Sam Scola - March 1, 2018 reply

    I have done all of the above and still get no where with my songwriting. It’s a dead end, look where the music has gone today?
    I can never get a break. I have upgraded my recording equipment too.

  • Lester Johnson - March 1, 2018 reply

    Thank You very much, this is great advice, I really don’t have problem finding things to write about but still im glad to receive this good advice, so thanks again and I will continue to take the advice and put it to use.

  • Dave Cousins - March 5, 2018 reply

    It may sound trite but sometimes as an excercise in creativity, I’ve made a list of things to frame a writing project like “holidays of the year” or “things I do on a certain day of the week”. I then task myself to write a song for each item in the list. Somehow related or inspired by that subject. Honestly some of my best songs came out of that. Some of the worst too, but I usually don’t play those out 😉

  • Jack Tucker - March 7, 2018 reply

    Very well written and also well formatted , Will start following your blog…..

  • Zoe Campos - February 16, 2021 reply

    I’m one of those aspiring songwriters you mentioned who can’t bring themselves to write a song. I’ve been trying to pursue a career in music but I’m not sure if it would be an easy path. It might be a good idea to create some songs first and see if there’s a company that would be willing to help me with distribution later on.

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