4 Fast-Paced Songwriting Methods

by Dan stokes

1. Free writing

Free writing is basically just unstructured, haphazard, nonstop writing. Forget that your pencil has an eraser. Forget that your keyboard has a backspace key. Ready…? Set…

The goal is to produce as many words as possible in the time allotted. Your pen should not stop moving across the page. Your fingers should not stop tapping keys. You should be writing rhythmically and steadily without interruption until the timer goes off.

Naturally that might mean that some of what you produce is incoherent or downright strange. That’s the whole idea. It doesn’t have to be presentable. Correct spelling? Not necessary. Sentence structure? Never heard of it. Feel free to type the same word or letter eighteen times in a row, if that’s what it takes—but keep those words coming, no matter what. Try not to censor yourself. Whatever’s on your mind, pour it all out.

I suggest you start with about 10 minutes on the clock at first. It’s a great way to loosen up before you do any kind of creative writing.

For more specialized free writing exercises tailored specifically to songwriters, you might try Andrea Stolpe’s Popular Lyric Writing. Despite the name, Stolpe’s book contains techniques useful to songwriters of all genres. It’s built upon Pat Pattison’s brilliant  free writing exercise, object writing, a description of which you can find in Writing Better Lyrics.

366192378_af0d750c6f_b by joe lanman

2. FAWM

FAWM is short for February is Album Writing Month. The objective is to write 14 songs during the shortest month of the year. That’s one song every two days, faster than many amateur songwriters.

Or, if you’re like me, FAWM is 27 days of procrastination followed by 14 songs frantically written on the 28th.

Many of my friends have also participated in FAWM. Even those who fell short of 14 songs that month agree that it was a worthwhile exercise, and that it was one of their more productive periods.

The group energy and enthusiasm of the FAWM community is great, especially for solo songwriters. Obviously February is a long way off at the date of this writing, but keep FAWM in mind—it’s a great exercise in productivity and camaraderie.

3. 50/90

The 50/90 Challenge is a songwriting marathon that begins on July 4th and ends on October 1st of each year. 50/90ers test their own mettle by attempting to write 50 songs during that 90-day window.

50/90 is run by the creator of the FAWM challenge, and has a very similar group atmosphere. It’s over three times as long as FAWM, and requires a bit more stamina. Are you up for it?

4. The Immersion Composition Society

Much like the two challenges above, the “Immersion Composition Society” aims to stir unmotivated songwriters to write. Their challenges seem to be deliberately absurd: they encourage songwriters to try to write 20 songs in a single day!

Obviously this is not an exercise for beginners, or for the faint of heart. But it reinforces that songwriting need not always be an agonized, slow process. It can also be a rapid-fire intuitive rush.

Jumping In

If you’re a perfectionist paralyzed by your own quality standards, any of the above exercises can help you shake yourself loose. Take a deep breath, lower your quality standards, and make a rush at it—there’s always time to pick nits later, when you’re revisiting and revising these hurried tunes.

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Comments

  1. Nicholas Tozier says

    Thank you Mr. Blick for encouraging me to try FAWM–and thanks Ruth for putting the Immersion Composition Society on my radar!

  2. says

    What strikes me about most of these is that we do them in groups…we all write fast and free, with less-than-usual regard for refinement…songwriting is one of those communal solo arts. Your company made me deliver on my FAWM promise, for the first time, Tozier. The Immersion Comp. Society gets people together in groups…everybody goes home and writes, then brings food and their songs for a mutual playathon. I’ve participated in virtual 20-song challenges…wd love to join a live group. Anyway, thanks for the reminder!

    • Nicholas Tozier says

      Yeah, you and Matt were awesome company for FAWM! Didn’t Matt end up delivering like 46,578 songs by the end of the month? Somewhere in that ballpark? That was crazy. Made 14 seem much more possible, I’ve got to say.

      What was the 20-song challenge like, Ruth? That sounds like madness.

  3. says

    Wow. These are great ideas–I’ve done FAWM and it’s quite an experience. I especially like the idea of the Immersion Composition Society. VERY neat!! Thanks for posting these. Gotta check ‘em out.

    • Nicholas Tozier says

      Definitely do, Mandy!

      50/90 just started yesterday. You’ll only be a couple of days late if you jump onboard with us for this one!

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