Every songwriter has been in the unenviable position of loving a specific musical idea but not being able to take it anywhere. A dead-end idea can be as simple as a synth riff or as packed as an entire song. This situation happens when you come up with something you really like, but feel like it’s not going anywhere. When you’ve got a dead-end idea stirring around your brain and taking up room on your computer, do you pull the plug or forge ahead? The answer completely depends on your specific idea and goals. But if you’re leaning towards keeping your idea alive by giving it somewhere to go, these suggestions might help you make meaningful progress:
Inspiration is one of the most powerful forces in music and every other form of art. But like a great meal, it’s just one ingredient. Waiting for inspiration to fall into your lap before you start writing consistently and developing your unique musical voice is a recipe for not making any music. In concert with other habits, strategies, and approaches, inspiration will absolutely help you write your best music. Let’s talk about what those other things are and how to use inspiration when it graces us.
Chasing perfection in music creation is a constant temptation. It’s natural to want to create and perform the best music you can, but focusing too much on perfection isn’t how you’re going to get there. From dumbing down your best ideas to sacrificing authenticity, your music ends up suffering when you obsess over its flaws. Here are four big ways your music suffers when you worry too much about perfection:
Creating lots of music obviously takes work, but writing in ways that highlight your unique strengths and perspectives as a songwriter is much harder to do. If you’re new to songwriting, it can be hard to recognize your unique creative strengths. But even if you’ve been at it for years, it’s not always natural to create with your strengths at the center of your process.
As songwriters, we each bring a unique set of perspectives and musical assets to our music. But while each of us is different, there are universal strategies we can embrace to highlight our creative strengths in music creation.
When you set out to write a new song, there are countless creative paths you can take. Most will lead to places you’ve been before, but some paths will take you to new musical territories. Obviously, new and exciting directions are the places we want to take our music as songwriters, but getting there is rarely easy. It takes work to write great music, but you already know that.
But what you might not realize is that embracing strategies and routines can up your chances of making excellent music in a huge way. Here are four of them:
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.
The non-musical world often thinks that making and performing music is always fun, easy, and instantly gratifying. But serious musicians know that this is only one part of their story. Loading your equipment out of a venue you just played after a show that no one attended isn’t fulfilling. Pitching your new album to a long list of email contacts and never hearing back isn’t fun. And yet both these examples are things independent musicians have to do to find audiences for their music. You can think of it as “paying your dues,” but the kicker is that some artists never manage to move past the stage of trying to get the world to notice their music, even if their songs are great. That’s a hard truth about pursuing music.
Without realizing it, we’re vulnerable to being sucked into lazy habits, ruts, and unproductive routines as songwriters. When making music doesn’t feel exciting or challenging anymore, it’s time to add newness and risk back into your process. However, for a lot of songwriters, this is easier said than done. What we often forget is that falling into ruts isn’t just a single decision, but countless small choices designed to keep things as comfortable and predictable as possible while we write. If it’s time to blow up your process and start over, consider trying out these strategies: