Quick link: sign up for Album Writing Month on their website.
Hi! This is Nick for The Lyric Writer’s Workroom. Today I want to talk about speed songwriting challenges – exercises that encourage you to write complete songs quickly.
As I record this, the yearly songwriting marathon FAWM is almost upon us. That’s F-A-W-M, which stands for “February Album Writing Month”. The goal of FAWM is to write 14 new songs during the 28 days of February; that’s one new song every 2 days. For those of us who are not professional songwriters, that’s a pretty fast pace. It’s fast even for some professional songwriters.
So should you give this crazy songwriting marathon a try? That depends, but it’s worth considering.
Good reasons to participate in FAWM:
FAWM is free, unless you choose to donate. Enough said.
Learn your limits as a songwriter. Writing so much so quickly should expose exactly which skills you need to work on as a songwriter; you’re more likely to notice which areas always give you trouble. Second verse hell is a real place, my friends.
Mute your inner critic and write faster. FAWM encourages you to finish lots of first drafts quickly.
Strengthen your creative discipline by writing under deadline. A lot of songwriters say that they don’t want songwriting or music to ever become “like work”. But work can be satisfying. FAWM could set you up for a disciplined daily songwriting habit that lasts well beyond the event itself.
FAWM has a big, supportive, international community. Songsters all over the world are dashing out lyrics and melodies every day this month. It’s fun to be part of that.
Even if you don’t finish, you win. The goal is to write 14 songs in February. But if you fall short and write even just 4 new songs in February, that’s still four new songs that you didn’t have.
FAWM as a creative kick start
Many songwriters find themselves stuck in long dry spells, holding out for some big, exciting, perfect idea to strike. One of the most valuable things you can learn from a speed-songwriting challenge like FAWM is that you can really write anytime. You don’t have to wait to feel inspired.
Songwriters have gotten some good, lasting results out of Album Writing Month. I know songwriter Matt Blick released his first EP, Let’s Build an Airport, named after the title track he wrote during FAWM one year. A project called Of Great and Mortal Men combined the forces of songwriters Christian Kiefer, Jefferson Pitcher and Matthew Gerken to write a collection of 43 songs. I don’t believe they finished all of those songs during the month of February, but the project started during FAWM.
Speed writing exercises can be good for songwriters who procrastinate. If you’ve got way too many little fragments and ideas and not enough finished songs, FAWM could be a great way to quickly rough them all out into complete drafts. But perfectionist songwriters might be driven to tears by this kind of challenge if they fall behind or if multiple songs don’t turn out well.
If you’re intrigued but FAWM doesn’t quite sound like your thing, other speed-writing challenges do exist:
If Album Writing Month isn’t fast enough for you, in her textbook Beginning Songwriting Andrea Stolpe, Berklee Music professor, recommends giving yourself just 40 minutes to write one complete song: chords, melodies, lyrics, and all. Then record it. Then repeat that drill every day for two weeks. Stolpe says it’s a good way to quiet your inner critic and let go of any negative perfectionist tendencies. 14 songs in 14 days – that’s a pretty intense regimen, and you can definitely expect to write some bad songs. That’s the point; It’s not so much about getting a great result as it is about just learning to let go.
More speed songwriting challenges
There are some other challenges too: The 50/90 event, beginning each July, is a challenge to write 50 songs in 90 days.
The totally over-the-top, extremist award goes to a book called The Frustrated Songwriter’s Handbook. That book calls on its readers to set aside a 12-hour block of time to write 20 songs. Which to me sounds just awful, honestly, but some songwriters I respect swear by it.
In general I think it’s better to stick to songwriting challenges that have a better chance of setting you up for a regular, sustainable songwriting habit in the long term. Writing 20 songs in 12 hours sounds to me like it would be difficult to do very often, and probably wouldn’t become a routine.
I’m actually not going to participate in FAWM this year. I’ve done it before, and I got some good experience out of trying it out, but this year I’m quite busy trying to really polish up a handful of new songs. I’ve discovered that I’m the kind of songwriter who’d much rather take weeks to really write and rewrite a song until I’m happy with it.
That’s it for this podcast. If you found this interesting or helpful in any way, please subscribe to the Lyric Writer’s Workroom mailing list so I can let you know when I upload new episodes.
Feel free to use the comments section to leave your experience with speed songwriting challenges. Did it help you out at all? Are you planning to try any of them? Take care.