The difference, in my experience, between professional songwriters and hobbyists has very little to do with actual songwriting talent. Being a pro requires an ironclad work ethic to not only create a consistent body of work but also to develop and maintain what I like to think of as songwriting muscles. I’ve put together a list of things to keep you motivated as you work your way towards a career in songwriting.
1. Set up a dedicated place to write
- Having a place that you can write (even if it’s just a corner of your living room) helps formalize the process and makes it easier to do.
- Hint: leave your guitar or piano accessible. Just having an instrument that you can pick up or sit down to quickly makes everything easier.
2. Have a particular time of day to write
- Schedules are good for accountability.
- Stick to your schedule
3. Don’t wait until you have huge chunks of time.
- It’s better to write a little every day than it is to wait until you have four hours at a stretch to write. Consistency is the key.
- Songwriting is a muscle and consistent working of that muscle is essential.
4. Work with a collaborator
- It’s often easier to share the load when it comes to songwriting
- Collaborators keep you accountable
- In a good collaboration, it’s half as hard to write
5. Go on input for a while
- If you’re stuck for creative ideas, feed your inspiration by listening to music, examining the structure of songs you love, going to a bookstore and looking for titles.
- There’s always something you can be doing.
6. Tell yourself you only have to write for five minutes
- Finally, on the days when you least want to write, it’s usually because there’s something in there that needs to be explored and that can be daunting.
- If, after five minutes, you’re not getting anywhere, give yourself permission to stop but, usually, you’re off to the races once you actually start writing.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Writing a song – any song – is a wonderful gift and one you should be proud of. However, just because your desire to write songs came in a flash of inspiration doesn’t mean you should sit around waiting for lightning to strike again. That’s not how the pros work and if you want to be a pro, you have to act like one long before you’re ever paid to write songs. Taking your songwriting seriously means carving out time in your daily schedule to do the necessary work to make inspiration and build your songwriting muscles until you build a solid, consistent catalog of great songs.
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