When You Don’t Know What to Write

Often times I find myself in the mood to write a song, but unable to think of a single lyric. Honestly it’s one of the most frustrating feelings because the songwriting bug only bites me every once in a while, and when I’m in the right mood to hash out a new song, I want to jump on the writing train and ride it all the way to the last line. But this can be super difficult to do if you don’t have any specific inspiration.

Because of this, I’ve come up with a list of ideas and topics over the years which really help me focus and usually can provide enough momentum to get the ball rolling. I figured I might as well share a few of them here!

  1. Treat the song you’re trying to write like a diary. Fill it with the things that seem to personal to share with the entirety of the world. Usually the more personal something is, the stronger you will feel about it, and the greater investment you’ll be able to put into the song. You don’t have to use specific names or places from your personal life, but real experiences are a lot easier to write about than fake ones.
  2. On that note: DON’T try to write about something you know nothing about. If you’ve never experienced a heartbreak, it’s going to be very hard to write a breakup song, etc.
  3. DO write about things that you are passionate about. This can be anything from your career, to a specific hobby, to a charity you have an emotional investment in. I remember when I was younger my mom sent me an article about this tradition overseas where people would go hunt dolphins for sport for a week or something like that (I was one of those weird pre teen girls obsessed with dolphins for a while) and I ended up writing a song inspired by how sick and sad that story made me.
  4. DO build up from the bottom. Let’s say you think of one really awesome line for a song–maybe it’s the hook; maybe it’s the end of the chorus. Perhaps you just think of the title. Sometimes one good line is all you need to start with. Think of the song like a puzzle: you have one key piece, and now you have to fill in the picture around it.
  5. Building from the bottom can also start with an image instead of a line. I wrote a song in high school that I ended up calling “Mason Jars,” which was born from a picture I saw on Pinterest of a group of girls sitting in a field with a bunch of mason jars and those little fairy lights that were trendy for a while. I ended up combining that image with a personal experience I had at Relay for Life that also used mason jars, and the song became an anthem about remembering things of the past but looking forward with hope.

Basically, there is no RIGHT way to write a song. There are so many different approaches you can utilize. If you get stuck, don’t sweat it. Everyone experiences writer’s block at some point or another. Just take a step back, and don’t try to force it. Try thinking about the song in a different way. Maybe just focus on one image or one line. Establish a personal connection. Whatever works for you!

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