Songwriting : What To Write About?

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People often asks how I come up with new ideas and decide what to write about in a new lyric. This is something I’ve researched over the years, so in this blog post I will share a few tricks and tips.

  • Try taking a piece of paper and a pen – as usual. But instead of trying to write a lyric straight away, write a page or two of whatever comes into your mind. Don’t think about what you’re writing or read it back until you’ve finished, try and switch off while writing if you can. This is a good way of tapping into your unconscious thoughts. When you read it back you might just find a thought that can be the basis for a new lyric. Some writers swear by this exercise and do it every day.
  • Cut up words from newspaper articles, spread them out and try to create a lyric. This is quite a fun challenge. I’ve never ended up with a lyric I’m completely happy with after doing this exercise but you can use it as a foundation to edit later. You could also cut up one of your existing lyrics. It’s interesting how you can create an idea so different from the original lyric using the same words. Again, what you come up with will probably need editing later but it’s a fun exercise to transport you from the stress of not knowing what to write about.
  • Some people say they always end up writing about the same event from their past and want to write about something different but worry when writing about a situation they haven’t experienced themselves. I find reading novels great for this. If you can understand how the character feels, you can write about it, whether you’ve experienced a similar situation or not. Films also, but books are better.

Furthermore, I write about the same situations over and over, it’s like therapy for me. By taking and exaggerating a different angle every time, your listeners won’t feel like you’re writing about the same topic constantly. You don’t have to talk about everything that happened in a given situation and everything you felt in one lyric. By spreading it out you can create several great lyrics from that one event.

  • People watching! This is a great one. Also very fun. There are lots of places where you will accidentally overhear conversations; waiting rooms, buses… If you hear anything interesting, write it down. Or if like many of my friends you like to people watch deliberately, try a café or any crowded place where you can sit anonymously. If you don’t like listening to conversations/can’t quite catch what they’re saying, try making up a life story for someone just by looking at them. What’s their name? What was their childhood like? Where do they work? And so forth.
  • Finally, I would strongly recommend writing lyrics as much as you can. Always re-read and never throw away lyrics you’re not happy with. There might be a great line in there that could be used as a foundation for a brand new and brilliant lyric.