Songwriter Habit #3 – Collecting Everything
We’ve all been there before: You get a sudden idea for a song, and you tell yourself that it’s alright, you’ll remember it later. But let’s be honest, most of the time, we won’t be able to accurately recall what it is later. In this article, we’ll teach you how you can collect everything and ensure that you’ll never lose an idea again.
This article is a summarised transcript of the fifth point in our video “7 Habits of Highly Effective Songwriters’’. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
What Does this Mean?
Collecting everything doesn’t so much mean that we have to record everything we see or hear. It means ensuring that we have a system in place that easily allows us to record any songwriting ideas that come to mind. Whether that’s through carrying a notepad around, recording voice notes or typing in your phone, you need to ensure that you can keep track of your inspiration somehow.
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Examples of Artists Collecting Everything
- Bela Fleck:
Grammy award-winning banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck has spoken about how he used to have to tour around the world at a time where handphones didn’t exist. When he got an idea for a song, he would call his house and leave a voicemail, singing whatever idea he had in his head. Then, when he got back from tour, he’d listen to all the voicemails and jot down the ones that he liked.
This story sums up really well the sense of desperation to capture an idea that a great songwriter should have.
- Taylor Swift:
When you watch documentaries of Taylor Swift, you’ll notice that she always has her phone with her. In Thiago Forte’s book “Second Brain”, he talks about how she makes a habit of capturing every single idea that she has as it’s happening.
Then, she uses that as an archive that she can return to during the songwriting process. This is reminiscent of the cliché where songwriters are seen to have stacks of journals, lists of voice recordings and voice memos in their phones. The point here is that you should collect your ideas however you can, using a variety of different formats.
- Max Martin:
Sometimes, ideas strike you at the most inconvenient moments. However, that doesn’t mean that you should just give up on recording them. Max Martin talks about this in the making of the popular Britney Spears song, “Hit Me Baby One More Time”.
The idea for the song came to him at 1 AM, when he was already fast asleep. Instead of telling himself that he’ll do it when he wakes up, he forced himself to roll over and mumble the melodic idea into his phone. After that, he had another idea and couldn’t quite go back to sleep. So, he rolled over and recorded another voice note into his phone.
This whole situation sounds inconvenient to us, but it shows just how determined songwriters have to be when collecting ideas.
Relating this Back to Stepping Away
All of this relates back to when we talked about stepping away as being part of the songwriting process. If you haven’t read that article, you can check it out here.
It’s important to understand that stepping away is part of the songwriting process. You’re not taking a break from songwriting, you’re just moving into a different mode of the creative process. So, even when you’re out taking a walk, having a long drive or jogging, be sure that you bring with you some method to collect ideas.
Conclusion: Songwriter Habit #3 – Collecting Everything
We should remember that inspiration could strike us at any time. In order to capture that inspiration, it’s imperative that we prepare methods to record ideas no matter where we are. In this way, we can be sure that we won’t lose any of our songwriting ideas and will always have a creative archive to draw from.
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