Category: songwriting methods

10 Foolproof Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Water parks have closed their doors, kids are back in school, and the weather is slowly beginning to cooperate. Fall has arrived.

For many songwriters, fall is a recharge time when new material comes flooding out. The summer tours are over, and those long hours spent on the road turn into hours spent with your favorite instrument, finding new melodies and lyrics.

But it never fails that the initial rush of creative energy begins to run dry, and you’ve still got half an album to write!

Whether you are prepping for your next release, or just trying to get your juices flowing, we’ve got some tips to help you when your inspiration has run out.

1-Take Notes!

This tip trumps all the others, because it will help you turn all the other tips into actual songs. When you see something inspiring, write it down. Keep notes on your phone, or in an actual notebook. I know a songwriter who carries around an average of 4 Moleskin notebooks—each with its own specific category—to write down creative ideas. You can also take pictures or videos of the things that inspire you. Whatever you do, just make sure that all these little tidbits of creative potential get stored somewhere.

2-Change Your Scenery

One of the simplest ways to get in touch with your creativity is to physically change locations. This doesn’t mean you have to take a writing retreat to a cabin in the woods—though you certainly can! Take a few minutes, and go somewhere in your city you’ve never been before. A new park, a new street, or even an extended walk in your own neighborhood. Explore downtown, or explore suburbia! Go sit next to the tree in your own back yard for a few minutes, or take a day trip to a state park.

3-Notice The Little Things

Even if you can’t physically relocate yourself, there are always new things you can explore. Look at the little things around you that you may not have noticed before. Sometimes an interesting street name could inspire a whole song. Maybe the texture of your ceiling is the same as the house you grew up in, and you turn your nostalgia into a song. Being more mindful of the world around you can help you be inspired to write about it.

4-People Watch

People watching can be one of the best ways to get ideas for songs. Just don’t be creepy! Station yourself in a busy public place, and observe the people around you. Listen to the phrases that fly by you. Pay attention to the characters that enter and exit your scene. Notice how people interact with each other, or better yet-

5- Strike Up a Conversation

People watching can help you create fictional stories. But what if you listened to someone’s actual story? A mantra that is often repeated in songwriting is “Write what you know,” but your own experience will be limited. Really listening to someone else’s story and empathizing with them could open up a whole new dimension in your songwriting.

A quick note: Make sure you have the person’s permission if you are going to take their life story and turn it into your next big hit. If you have their approval, write your heart out! But be aware, sometimes it’s better—and easier—to take pieces of real life and mix them in with fiction, instead of writing someone’s life for the whole world (or internet) to scrutinize.

6- Try a Different Instrument

Most songwriters have an instrument that they know well, and love to play. But sometimes shaking things up can help you create a great song, and a new sound.

You don’t have to be highly skilled at an instrument to write on it. Most guitar players will find that they can easily pick up the mandolin or banjo.

If you play piano, try learning a few chords on guitar, or simply move to a completely different piano sound than you usually play with. The song you write on a different instrument might not be a compositional masterpiece, but it will help get you out of your comfort zone.

7-Get Specific

Pick a highly specific thing-an apple, the color yellow, a particular emotion-and write about it! Be as poetic or as literal as you like, just keep the song highly specific to the topic that you choose.

8-Co-Write

If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably made plans with a few other writers to combine your efforts and create a hit. But sometimes life gets in the way, and those writing sessions never happen.

Well now is the time! Shoot them a text or email saying you want to get together in the next week or so to write, and make it happen! You can also reach out to a local songwriter you admire and see if they would be willing to meet up for a co-write. Even if you think the writer is too experienced, or too busy, it never hurts to ask. So be brave, and get co-writing!

9-Ask Your Fans

Your fans are the ones who will be listening to (and buying!) your music, so why not get their input in the earliest phase? Ask them for stories or topics to write about. Ask them for rhyme suggestions if you’re stuck on a particular phrase.

10- Just Write

Sometimes, no matter what we do, inspiration just keeps running away from us. When that happens, amateurs give up. Great songwriters keep writing. Sometimes it takes 20 awful songs to finally get a great one. Don’t sweat it if you’re in a funk. Just keep writing. Eventually, it will pay off.

How have you defeated writer’s block? Do you have any other songwriting tips? Let us know in the comments below!


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Writing Better Songs: How to Silence the Inner Critic

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

You’ve sat down with your instrument of choice. You had a moment of inspiration, and the chorus to your next hit comes rushing out of you. You start to work on the first verse, and all of a sudden-nothing. All your lyrical inspiration is gone, the melodies won’t come–you’ve got nothing. In an instant your great spurt of inspiration is completely used up.

And in less time than it takes to microwave a hot pocket, you are convinced that this is the worst thing you’ve ever written. You’ve decided that every song you’ve crafted is trash. You are going to turn in your resignation as a artist, and never play your music in front of people again.

While this example may be a bit of a stretch, most songwriters hit this wall eventually. Something negative happens, and you become highly critical of your own work. Self-criticism can be a good thing when it comes time to edit a song, but when you are trying to get into the zone and create, this critic does more harm than good.

So how can you turn off your inner critic and let your creative juices flow?

Quantity, not Quality

One of the best ways to shut down the harsh voice in your head is simply by writing more songs. Cultivating an environment where you can just be yourself helps takes some of the pressure off the writing process.

Here are some steps you can take to begin this process:

  • Have concrete writing goals. Set a realistic weekly number of songs to write, and commit to finishing them.
  • Battle your fear of failing. There is a good chance most of the songs you write will be bad. That’s okay. Allowing your self the freedom to write some bad songs will help you know when you’ve written a great one.
  • Remember, this is a no pressure situation. You don’t have to play these songs for anyone. After you write them, you don’t even have to play them for yourself!
  • Push through when you hit a wall. This is the key to making this strategy work. Fight through the temptation to quit, and finish the song.
  • Create for creation’s sake. You may find that the more you write, the quieter your self-critic becomes.

This kind of writing may be difficult at first. That’s okay. Stick to your goals, and write anyway. Churning out material, no matter the quality, gets the creative part of your brain working. When the creative voice is louder, you may find that the inner critic’s voice is so small you can barely hear it.

Write. Just Write.

Music is not the only form of creative expression. If you are having a particular problem coming up with lyrics, it is a good idea to just write.

Writing can take many forms, but the first exercise I recommend is keeping a “First Thoughts” journal. Keep a notebook and pencil next to your bed, and every morning, write for 10 minutes. Do this before you do anything else.

The most important rule of this journal is that you are not allowed any kind of filter. For 10 minutes, write down your thoughts exactly as they come into your head, with no editing. Grammar doesn’t matter, punctuation doesn’t matter, you don’t have to make any kind of sense. (Mine never do, since I don’t make any sense before I’ve had my morning coffee!) You can write your dreams, what you want to accomplish that day,  what made you angry last night, or a play-by-play recap of your favorite reality TV show.

It doesn’t matter. Just write.

This strategy turns off the critic by turning off all filters. Then, in other writings, you can put those filters back in place as you need them.

Your “First Thoughts” journal shouldn’t be your only writing. Try your hand a writing a blog. Or write an incredibly detailed description of a simple object. Dabble in poetry. Do whatever it takes to loosen up the pressure of putting words down on a page. Experimenting with other writing forms can also open you up to different approaches to songwriting, and can help you find new inspiration.

Identify the Critic

This may take a little time, and a little soul searching. Often, the critic inside of us is not really us. It is an outside voice that we have taken on. This may be the voice of a teacher who spoke harshly about your work. It might be a parent or close relative that scoffs at your music when you share it. Your self-critic might not even have its roots in music, but in something else in your life that translates to criticizing your creative self-expression. This voice is different for everyone, but identifying it can help you fight it.

Once you’ve identified the voice of your critic, address it. Write a letter to it, or a song about it. It doesn’t have to be an eloquent letter, or a fantastic song. It just needs to be honest.

As a creative, part of what allows you to make good art is your ability to be in touch with your emotion. This is especially true when things  are painful. It’s not an easy task to identify the critic, or to firmly tell them to please be quiet. When you have acknowledged the hurt that they caused, and the affect that you allowed that hurt have on your life—specifically your music—you can begin to move on from it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Play

When our self-critic says we’re not good enough, sometimes we just have to get out there and prove it wrong. Don’t be afraid to share your music. Try a new song at your next show. Play a short set for your closest friends. Send your mom your latest demo. Show yourself that you are not limited by what your self-critic says.

More Than the Music

The last, and probably most important step into turning off the self-critic is to remember that you are more than your music. You are more than a collection of notes, or a few lines of lyrics. Your songs are a part of who you are, but they don’t define you.




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Following Inspiration

Following Inspiration While Writing

By Julian Keaton - Estimated reading time: 1 minute

“Every time I start a new spoken word piece, I get inspired by something completely unrelated that hits more.”

—Julian Keaton

I saw the above quote in a tweet from one of our guest authors, Julian Keaton, and I couldn’t help but share it.

Sometimes, when you’re writing one thing, inspiration strikes and pulls you in a completely new direction, compelling you to write something entirely different.

This is exactly why it’s a good habit to write regularly, with or without an inspiring topic in mind. You never know what subject, phrase, or word will move you to something greater.

That burst of inspiration doesn’t mean that your initial subject—the one you sat down to work on in the first place—is worth abandoning. It might be rubbish. It might be gold. Or, it might continue to inspire you in the future. Whatever the case, set it aside, and come back to it later.

But… in those moments when you’re suddenly inspired and that inspiration hits deep, cling to it, and follow it wherever it takes you.

That’s the best way to make music that moves and inspires others, the best way to make art.




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Free songwriting book

Don’t Write Another Song Until You See This

By NationWide Source - Estimated reading time: 1 minute

Let’s be honest, many musicians struggle with songwriting. Weak melodies, cheesy cliches, and thoughts that ramble throughout the song are only a few of the problems you face.

Yet, you see other musicians churning out hit after hit.

What do they have that you don’t? Is it simply that they’re more talented? Maybe… and maybe not.

It could just be that they have a method to their songwriting, a formula that streamlines their creative process, clears out the roadblocks, and lets them maximize their talent.

Here at Source, we’ve heard your frustration concerning songwriting, and we decided to do something about it. We commissioned award-winning, chart-topping songwriter Cliff Goldmacher to write a guidebook about the method and the madness of songwriting. Cliff’s songs have spent months on top of the Billboard charts. He teaches workshops for BMI and ASCAP and is a member of practically every songwriting guild and association out there.

Best of all, this comprehensive songwriting manual is a gift for YOU. That’s right, it’s free.

Free Download




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