Songwriting is a cathartic, stimulating, and back-and-forth process. When inspiration really sinks in, it's incredible what we're capable of creating. And after channeling that inspiration into a new song, there's a strong feeling of purpose and secure creative identity. We can, however, often sit around waiting for that moment to happen. Writer's block is one of the worst feelings for a songwriter. You stare at a stack of half-written songs thinking, none of this is even good. But what's most important is to not stay idle. While you're shifting between great songs, it's important to be creative daily and to write regardless of whether the material feels like your next hit. Here are four reasons why you shouldn't wait for inspiration to write songs.
1. Creativity gets better with practice
Just as we’re taught to practice daily, we should create daily. Exercising your creativity only helps you to be a more imaginative songwriter. Again, we all know those giant bursts of inspiration that practically write your best songs for you, but you can’t sit around waiting for them.
Noah Scalin, an award-winning American artist, became famous for his "Skull-A-Day" project. For one year, he created a skull out of random items each day, forcing himself to be creative and resourceful. While some days were easy, others weren't, and he wanted to give up. But toward the end of the year, he became quicker and smarter in his creation. With practice, you can learn to become more creative and quicker on your feet for when inspiration does decide to really strike.
2. Daily writing builds a catalog of usable ideas
Radiohead's famous album In Rainbows features a gorgeous song called "Nude." While it came out in 2007, it was written a decade prior on their 1997 OK Computer tour. After going through several facelifts, it finally made an appearance. The point is that deas might not always work at first, but in time, they can be just right. Each time you pick up your guitar and a pen, whether or not the idea you come up with seems good at that moment, it might be the basis for an incredible song years down the road. Each song you write adds to your catalog of ideas, your vocabulary as a songwriter, and your memory bank of creativity. Maybe it's just a verse of lyrics. You might not have the inspiration to write a whole song, but in a few months, your keyboard player might have an awesome chord progression with a beautiful melody. You need lyrics – start with that old verse and build from there.
3. The music industry has deadlines
As amazing as it would be to spend each day in the studio as long as you'd like, toying with ideas here and there, just letting the music write itself naturally, record labels expect songs to be completed by certain deadlines. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars to record an album. If you're expected to finish your album by a certain date, you'll need to be able to, more or less, write music on command. It might feel forced, and you'll likely have some wiggle room with your label, but there are expectations.
If you've become a creative songwriting pro, you'll be ready to shell out songs and really work hard at creating good music by your label's deadlines. If you're not signed to a label, you have the luxury of working at your own pace, but again, recording time is expensive, and if you're dependent on selling your music to generate income, you'll only have so much time between releases to get by. Not everyone can be Portishead and release an album every other decade.
4. Inspiration comes in many forms
Inspiration may not come through in the form of a song. Maybe you're cooking, and decide to try a new spice or sauce. All of a sudden, your tacos taste amazing! That's an inspiration to cook. Maybe you have an inspiration to exercise, read poetry, or people-watch on the subway. Channel all of your inspiration and relate it to music. While cooking, practice singing along to songwriters you admire. While reading poetry, try to write in the style of your favorite poet. While on the subway, try writing a fictional story about the strangers you see. Let inspiration hit you from wherever it comes, even if it doesn’t have a musical purpose just yet. You may not be inspired to write a full, chart-topping song, but if you're constantly open to all different types of inspiration, you'll be a more productive, creative, and proactive person, which will make a positive difference in your music.
Sam Friedman is an electronic music producer and singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, NY. His music blends experimental ambience with indie-driven dance music. In addition to pursuing his own music, he is a New Music Editor for Unrecorded and is passionate about music journalism. Check out his music and follow him on Twitter @nerveleak.