For me, many times the song kind of writes itself. That may sound strange, but let me explain.
Usually what happens is I will start with one line/emotion/idea for the song. (Sometimes, I will hear a line in a movie, show, or from daily conversations and jot it down in my phone, and use that as a place to start my new song.) When I sit down to actually write, I usually grab my guitar, pick a key, and start strumming through some chords and humming melodies under my breath until something just clicks. When that happens, I let myself run with it. Sometimes, I will grab my phone and record a voice memo of me just making things up as I go. I am a firm believer in recording as much as I can so I have it to reference later when I cannot for the life of me remember that really cool melody that I sang on take 23. It’s a great way to free myself up to create so I am not stuck there trying to make sure I remember what I just did. Instead, I can keep going and writing and come back to something I liked a little later. Sometimes, this is how entire songs are created.
Other times, not so much. Every once and awhile, I will sit down to write and not be able to come up with a single thing for the song. Writer’s block is one of the most frustrating things a songwriter deals with. In my experience, there are really only three things you can do when you are facing writer’s block…
1. Persevere. Keep strumming/singing through that line/humming that melody and eventually something will come out of it.
2. Walk away from the song for now. Pick it up later or tomorrow. Sometimes the best thing you can learn is when to take a break. (I’m still working on that one…)
3. Free write. This one may seem counterintuitive, because clearly if you have writer’s block sitting down to write is impossible…
Oh, but it’s not.
This is one of my favorite things to do when I am having trouble writing. I will grab a notebook, set a timer for 10-15 minutes and put my pen to paper. For me, this method takes all the pressure off of writing. It stops me from thinking I have to come up with a great line right away, because it’s just a free write. It takes the filter away, because good or bad, I have to keep writing the entire time without stopping. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or if it even makes that much sense. It is a chance to free your mind. I have gotten some really cool stuff from simply doing a short free write.
Here is an example of one of the better free writes I have done.
I wrote this back in November 2013. (Looking through old notebooks always produces some interesting things.)
There’s a sense of community in places like this. There are strangers who know you by name, and lovers who only know your face. I’m stuck in a bittersweet place.We’re all wandering around looking for whoever made that sound that set our hearts on fire in the middle of the rolls of thunder. We are all wild-hearted wanderers. We are secret-keepers and lonely souls, but we’ve finally found a home, a safe place in the woods. So we sit silently and drink ourselves full of all the warm things in the world. Oh, how they go down slow, a whisper in the night, a single leaf falls. The turning of time is marked by the changes in our lives, by the simple rituals and by the growing kindness in our eyes. These are the things that show our time. We’ll learn as we go and spend out nights remembering the best of times soft and slow, because they passed by too fast to savor it all. We are the constant enders of days. The stars rejoice when they see that we’ve saved their place and made space for their lights to shine. We ask for nothing in return. We put pen to paper and shut out the rest of the world. We’re keeping everything we know here on this indulgent page. Syllables pile up, but we stack them up and go on our way. Nothing stays the same. So we file through the things we can understand and do our best to remember why we wake up every morning and stand. But we are in this thing together. We could run, but our paths cross all over. There is nowhere else to go. We are jealous stars in the same show.
Here is a really awkward and funny video my sister and I made last Christmas Eve about my album, "Love is Alive." It features live performances of "Until you hurt me" and "It's too late to say goodbye" and the both of us being awkward in antlers.