New songwriters to seasoned and creatively successful ones alike often find themselves getting stuck when it comes to not knowing what to write about in their music from time to time. If you’re a songwriter at a complete loss of what to make your next song about, here are a couple of creative topics to inspire you:
1. Historical events
Choosing a notable historical event to write about is a good jumping-off point if you’re feeling uninspired lyrically. If you already know a great deal about a specific historical event, you’ll have plenty of material to work with as far as storytelling goes. If you go this route, your challenge as a songwriter will be to talk about history in a way that’s both accurate to the covered events but also genuine to your unique voice and musical style. If you’re tempted to view writing music about history as something boring, consider that some of today’s most influential and popular music covers historical events in some way, whether through hit musicals or subversive alternative pop explorations. Making music about history might not work for you, but it’s something worth exploring if you’re out of ideas.
2. Specific places
Pristine nature settings and the most boring suburban landscapes imaginable alike have both inspired an unfathomable amount of music. If a specific place is important to you––your old middle school, the hospital room where you welcomed your first child into the world, the quiet pond by your house––then it’s worth writing about. Places can be settings for the characters you write about in songs, or they can be characters themselves. You can also write about a place you’ve never personally been to if it inspires you enough. There’s no right way to make music about specific places, but it’s crucial to convey why a place is meaningful in your work if you choose to write about it. If the things you write about aren’t meaningful to you, they won’t be meaningful to your listeners.
3. A day in the life of a fictional character
Trying to incorporate creative fiction into songwriting can be a huge challenge, but a great place to start is by writing about a single day in a character’s life. Whether you choose to write about a made-up person who comes from the same background as you or a figure straight out of science fiction, sticking to the framework of a character’s day is a good way to get started. Songwriters have been making incredible music about fictional characters for years, so there’s plenty of examples out there to look to.
Feeling creatively stuck can be massively frustrating for songwriters, especially if they’re used to coming across lyrical ideas easily. The topics listed here are designed to be starting points, not fully formed song ideas. Thinking about the topics listed here can set you down on a path toward feeling inspired to write something again, even if the final product looks and sounds completely different from the idea you started with.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.