Capturing your ideas

Deb Hilton shares her unique way of writing songs:

There are an infinite number of possibilities to writing songs and thus an infinite number of songwriting tips to be given. Here is one way I like to write.

I got a $7 tape recorder from Wal-Mart and I carry it around with me all the time. Whenever I think of (or hear) something clever, or true, or just something that sounds poetic, I say it into the tape recorder. It is much handier for me than a pen and paper, my thoughts get slowed down with the writing.

I sometimes go a week or two, sometimes months on end, taping phrases or weird sounding words on this recorder, and if I run into a slump where I’m not personally thinking of anything creative, I’ll go to a busy cafeteria in the mall, or a busy coffee shop where people aren’t afraid to make conversation in an audible tone. I’ll sit next to a talkative table or near them and sort of eavesdrop just a little, not so much I’m intruding, I’m just keeping my ears open for buzz words or phrases that have a ring with me. When I hear it, I’ll write it down (this time).

Last fall I was at Meir Woods with my family and we were walking back to our car and passed by these three truckers in the parking lot and one was just finishing telling a joke with the punch line when I passed by and heard, “she plays the guitar and kisses with her eyes open.” They all burst out laughing, I didn’t hear the joke, but I knew that line was getting written down when we get to the car (when I’m with other people and need to record something, I’d rather just write it down for now, but you do what you like). I haven’t used that line yet, but It is still recorded and I won’t forget it.

Sometimes, I go months before reviewing my tapes, and I’ve found that when I do wait so long, I am hearing these ideas with new ears, as a listener would hear them for the first time and I can get and give an honest opinion of myself to myself as a first impression would.

I also like to give my verses, lines, phrases dual meanings. One may be universal and one may have another more personal meaning for me. It helps keep the song fresh for me (the one who is singing it over and over again). Nothing is worse than having to sing a song that has become boring to you.

I think it’s important to cut yourself some slack when it comes to writing too. I wait until I have the night (or day) entirely to myself to get out the recorder and hear what I’ve got to work with.

This is your sacred escape, use it!

Just keep writing, and rewriting and crafting until it feels good to you!

Deb Hilton

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