Guest post by Maria Rainier
If you’re anything like most songwriters, you’re all too familiar with that frustrating sensation of being stuck in a rut. You know it’s important to write something – anything – every day, but there are times when that just seems impossible. Maybe you don’t have enough energy, you might be too critical of your first attempts, or you could be missing out on the muse. Whatever the reason, you can still get your daily writing done in a productive way if you introduce new exercises into your routine. The next chance you get, try starting this five-day lyric writing exercise workshop – it’s the perfect way to begin a week of successful songwriting. You can rearrange the order of the exercises, tweak them according to your preferences, add new dimensions to them, or replace some of them with your own favorite exercises. It’s up to you, but committing to a solid five-day block of writing lyrics will help you break out of your rut and establish some helpful habits.
Day 1: Research Mix & Match
The first step is to give yourself something interesting to work with. Read the papers and go online to find some news reports, reading through stories that interest you. Write down keywords, characteristics of people in stories that grab your attention, and phrases that make you want to ask questions. Look at the images that accompany the news stories you’re reading, then dredge up your descriptive skills and write down what the photos say to you. Who are the people you’re looking at? What are their stories? Find something that captures your imagination, write down associated words and phrases, and let yourself keep thinking about the topic until your next writing session.
Day 2: Collaborative Brainstorming
Contact a friend by chat or email. Send each other a list of 50 nouns with creative descriptors, such as “golden keys,” “sweet lies,” or “innocent thief.” Read through your list and your friend’s list for combinations that strike you. Try combining nouns from one list with adjectives from the other, creating new phrases and new meanings. Circle the ones that make you want to write more.
Day 3: Titles & Nuggets
Using what you’ve written from the previous two exercises (or relying on your notebook), construct some potential song titles. They should be anywhere from one to five words and should be evocative and interesting. In general, song titles should hint at something original but universal without revealing everything – a very tall order. Don’t think too hard about coming up with the perfect title. Just use the words and phrases you’ve written down that appeal to you. Try combining them to create a phrase that doubles as the premise of a song, and you’ve got a working title.
Day 4: Songwriting Surgery
Now, pick a popular song that appeals to you and completely rewrite the lyrics. First, replace the title with your favorite phrase from the previous writing session, then forget everything you know about the song’s original lyrics. Use your notebook full of words and phrases to write lyrics that fit the melody of the song. Now, you have a basic scaffold on which to build an original song.
Day 5: Open Season
Using the lyrics you wrote for the popular song, create your own work of art. Separate the lyrics from the melody of the pop song and write your own music instead, editing your lyrics as needed to conform to your musical vision. It’s important to think of your lyrics as a scaffold and not as an altered pop song – don’t be afraid to change your lyrics. Let yourself alter the words to your song as the melody and lyrics come together, taking advantage of the full freedom of this process.
In the end, you’ll have at least one song plus more notebook entries to inspire future songwriting, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.