Nothing substitutes the magic of sitting down with an instrument and experimenting when it comes to songwriting. If you want to make great music, this is a major piece of what the work looks like. But there are lots of other things you can do as a music-maker to integrate music creation into your daily life. Keeping a journal is one of them.
Writing in a journal might not seem especially helpful for your songwriting process, but it’s something easy that will provide big benefits for your work as a songwriter.
Journaling helps you process your emotions and experiences
Ask developing artists what keeps them from writing the music they want, and many will say that they have no idea what to write songs about. Journaling can help solve this problem. If you’re a living, breathing, observant human being, then you automatically have an endless amount of big important things in your life that can inspire your music. The work is narrowing down that incomprehensibly long list of feelings, ideas, and experiences into a couple of things you can grab onto and work with. Journaling can help you do this in a powerful way. Most songwriters create work about what they think and care about the most. So if you find yourself journaling about the same things over and over again, those are the things that will be most natural to write about in your music. When you need inspiration, you can simply read through what you’ve been journaling about.
Your music doesn’t have to be emotional or even directly about your personal experiences in any way, but being in touch with your feelings will help you as a songwriter no matter what kind of music you make. Processing your emotions and experiences through journaling allows you to show up to your songwriting work focused and ready to follow your ideas wherever they lead you. Some of the experiences you write about can directly translate into song lyrics, while others will provide energy and inspiration that can shape your ideas. You don’t have to directly use the things you write about in your journal for the process of writing your thoughts down to be helpful for your songwriting work.
Journaling sharpens your writing skills
Writing isn’t easy, whether it’s coming up with lyrics or something more substantial, like an essay. Keeping a daily journal is a great way to develop your writing skills, which will come in handy when it’s time to write lyrics. If you’re new to songwriting and are still finding your footing, keeping a journal is one of the best ways to get comfortable with writing. Writing songs is obviously a musical endeavor, but it’s ultimately an act of organizing ideas. Writing down words is something similar, and becoming a better writer will only help you on your quest to make better music.
Journaling helps you know yourself
What were you doing exactly a year ago today? How did you feel about your life, relationships, and yourself? If journaling was a regular part of your life a year ago, you could probably easily answer this question. Journaling allows us to know ourselves not only in the present moment, but who we were in the past. This is helpful not only for mining your past and present experiences for musical inspiration, but for showing up to the writing process confident of who you are, where you’re going, and what you want.
Tips to help you keep a journal
Anyone who journals seriously will tell you that it becomes sort of addictive once it becomes a regular part of your routine. When you’re in touch with your core need to express your ideas and understand what’s happening in your life, journaling can become a therapeutic part of daily life. You’ll need some discipline to kickstart your journaling habit, and it’s a good idea to start small with goals like writing at least a paragraph every day. Consistency is the important thing to remember here, so prioritize writing a little every day over writing a lot every once in a while. If you don’t know what to journal about, try recounting memorable parts of your day. Keep it up and it won’t take long until journaling begins to bring big benefits to your songwriting practice.
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.