write something, anything

Frequently writers will ask us how to get unstuck. Here’s a suggestion I gave to one individual.

It sounds to me like part of what is shutting you down is self-criticism. Early in the creative process, criticism is a real killer. To get around that, you could start by writing almost anything that comes into your head, without pausing to figure out if it’s any good.

Think of it as a rough first draft, and think of it as something that, with appropriate editing, could become a great song. That’s much more conducive to the creative process.

In other words, find what’s good about your first draft and build on that. You can always cut a weak verse or improve it. Sometimes in the process of cutting, editing and adding new verses, your end result will bear little resemblance to the first draft. That’s OK, you gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

I often write in a wordy style at first (not on purpose), so a lot of my editing work consists of removing words and entire verses, shortening phrases, tightening up and so on.

Some of the best songwriters go through many, many drafts before arriving at the one we hear on the radio. Of course, no one ever hears the early versions except the songwriters and perhaps the band, producer, spouse, etc.

The other part to that tip is, don’t rush your songs. If it takes 19 drafts to get the lyrics right, that’s what it takes. Don’t let your band, yourself or anyone else rush your process. Sometimes they come out fast, other times they need to brew awhile.

Trying to force it to happen faster than it wants to happen is usually a disaster. Inspiration comes on its own schedule. My advice is, when the inspiration does come, hop on it, even if it means staying up all night or canceling previous plans.

It sounds to me like you are committed to and passionate about music. This is good, because if you aren’t, it will show in your songs.

One more tip to beat writer’s block: every writing coach, will tell you to ‘write what you know.’ Another way to say it is write about a subject you are passionate about. It could be a person, animal, thing (TV show, sports team) or an idea (freedom, peace, etc.)

And remember passion can be love or lust. You can also hate passionately. Anything that incites deep feelings in you, positive or negative, is a good subject for a song.

Usually, when you’re passionate about something or someone, you can’t shut up about it. Use that in your writing.

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