The most surefire way to keep making progress with your songwriting craft is to practice, practice, practice. The great part is that it doesn’t take much – even devoting just 10 minutes a day to songwriting will help you improve. Not sure what exactly to spend those 10 minutes on? Try experimenting with these ideas, and watch yourself become a more creative songwriter in no time!
1. Object writing
Pick any object, and engage your senses by writing down every detail you can about it. Go beyond just what it looks like; investigate how it sounds, feels, smells, and even tastes. This simple exercise will train you to notice and articulate details that the average person wouldn’t normally observe – a must for taking your lyrics from good to great.
2. Stream of consciousness
Try writing whatever is on your mind in the most basic way – unedited, free-flowing thoughts without direction. Pick a topic as a jumping-off point, and just keep writing until your 10 minutes run out. Allow your ideas to jump from place to place, and when you’re finished, read it over. You may have touched on a creative thought you want to explore further.
3. Record a melodic idea
Whether it’s singing, programming, or playing, make sure you save it! When you’re just letting the music come to you instead of spending a lot of time forcing something that may not come, you’ll probably find something you like. Practicing improvisation is also a great way to put in the technical time with your voice or instrument.
4. Word by association
This is a great way to spur creativity and make progress on songs with a theme. Take your title, theme, or evocative phrase, and just take time writing down everything that comes to mind when you think of what you see on the page. It could be single words, or it could come out in short phrases. Something special might pop into your head that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise!
5. Learn a new song
People are most likely to create what they "study" the most. As a songwriter, you gather inspiration from your favorite musicians and lyricists. Take 10 minutes a day to gradually learn a song you love. Your ultimate goal could be to recreate it with your production skills, record a cover, or just learn to play or sing it for fun.
6. Write in a journal
This doesn’t have to be directly about your music. Try keeping a journal that reflects your daily life to improve your skills with writing, organizing your thoughts, analyzing your emotions, and keeping track of important things that could be inspirational.
7. Visit a new place or take a different route
Instead of always going to the same places, put something new in your daily or weekly route. Try a new coffee shop, take a different road, or visit a popular landmark in your town or city. Bonus points for making a note of it in your journal later on!
8. Read something new
If you enjoy fiction, pick up a biography. If you have a subscription to the New York Times, try reading some Pitchfork articles instead. Go for something you wouldn’t normally try, but have at least a mild interest in. That way, you won’t immediately put it down, but you’ll still get some refreshing new material, exposing you to different writers and styles.
9. Write in a different narrative
Attempt to write a passage in various narratives like first, second, and third person. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing about a personal experience or something fictional – practice different approaches to telling the story. For instance, you could spend the first five minutes writing as if you’re directly in the situation, and the following five minutes writing as if you’re an observer on the outside of the same situation.
The most important component to improving your songwriting skills is exercising your imagination. Your creativity comes from a combination of what you experience, how you perceive those experiences, and how you put that perception back out into the world. So be imaginative, and allow yourself 10 minutes to daydream.
Get more songwriting tips:
- 5 Exercises to Write More Creative Lyrics
- When, How, and Why to Break the Rules of Songwriting
- 7 Easy Things You Can Do Right Now to Get Out of a Songwriting Rut
- How to Write Songs That Get Stuck in People's Heads
- How to Find Co-Writers
Erin Brick is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and an intern for songwriting collaboration website SongwriterLink.