The more time and space you carve out in your daily life for music creation, the better chance you’ll have at writing great songs. The way you build time and space in your life for music is a fancy way to describe a songwriting practice. Define and prioritize your songwriting practice, and you’ll have a clear path for reaching your goals as a music creator. But by writing irregularly and only when you feel like it, you’ll make it much harder to write your best music.
What is a songwriting practice?
A songwriting practice is the time and resources you dedicate to writing music. Some artists create writing schedules for their songwriting practices, while others only create when they feel inspired to. Every songwriter reading this makes different music in different ways and comes from different backgrounds. But that doesn’t change the fact that writing in a clear, intentioned, and focused way as often as possible helps each of us create our best music.
Some songwriters write so often that they don’t need a defined and scheduled songwriting practice. But for the rest of us, scheduling when and how we write is an incredibly powerful benefit that often makes the difference of whether we’ll actually end up writing anything or not. It’s not just the amount of time that gets devoted toward making music that makes a songwriting practice important and productive, though focused time to create music is a huge part of it. The things we choose to focus on when we create are also important. Your process could completely revolve around toying around inside your DAW or on your acoustic guitar when you set out to make new music. Or, it could be free-writing in your journal, seeking solitude out in nature, or painting a picture to spur musical inspiration.
A thriving songwriting practice doesn’t have to start and end with music creation. While the end goal is to create inspired and interesting music, we all get there in different ways. The important thing to focus on is doing what kickstarts music creation uniquely for you the most not just every once in a while, but consistently.
The work that goes into a thriving songwriting practice
Sustaining a thriving songwriting practice takes work and sacrifice. To say yes to music creation over and over again, you’ll need to say no to other things like smartphone notifications, friends wanting to hang out, and non-musical hobbies. If your songwriting practice is scheduled throughout your week, it’s important to think of this as setting time aside purely for music creation and exploration and nothing else.
But while it’s hard for many of us to build songwriting into our lives, it can be much harder to sit quietly alone with an instrument and ask what to do. Just because you set aside time to make music doesn’t mean you’ll create anything good––or anything at all for that matter. All we can do as music-makers is to try by showing up to the process again and again. Musical ideas come to us in completely different ways, and you might stumble upon an amazing melody or chord progression on the subway or in the shower. The benefit of a consistent songwriting practice is to have all the time and resources you need to transform vague ideas into defined songs. It should be the one time in your life where music creation happens in an unrushed and free way. If you’re willing to do the work over and over again, you’ll be far more likely to create music you love.
Investing in music creation
When we talk about artists investing in their music, it’s easy to think this just means music promotion. But when an artist devotes time, money, and energy into their songwriting practice, they’re investing in the music creation process and not in songs they’ve already written. If you’re serious about making music, investing in your unique songwriting practice is one of the best things you can do. A thriving practice makes music creation more inspired, consistent, and rewarding. It takes the vague desire to write music and puts you, the songwriter, in a position of action and productivity. If making music is important to you, building song creation into your life with a consistent songwriting practice will help you reach your goals.
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.