3 Simple Systems to Help You Make Time for Songwriting
After emailing the over 12,000 people on my mailing list and asking them the question “What is your biggest challenge with songwriting?”, one response from a subscriber by the name of Jesse particularly stood out to me. She commented on how she now has so many resources to support her songwriting but isn’t able to make the time for it. In this article, we’re going to discuss 3 systems that have helped me make time for songwriting over the past 25 years.
This article is a summarised transcript of our video “How to Always Make Time for Songwriting – 3 Simple Systems”. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
System 1: Practice Songwriting Daily
We often have the notion that we require 2 or 3 hours of spare time in order to get any songwriting done. This isn’t true. By going through your day and thinking of things like a songwriter, you can practice using that mindset til it becomes second nature. Here are 3 short exercises you can easily fit into your daily routine:
- Sense Writing: Give yourself a random object and spend 5 to 10 minutes writing whatever association comes to mind. Be sure to stay bound to your senses. The goal here is to paint a visceral sensory description of a moment or experience. This exercise helps you practice creating interesting associations and can lead to great song ideas.
- Metaphor Collisions: Fuse two random nouns into a metaphor and expand on it for 2-3 minutes. This exercise encourages the brain to make unique connections between unrelated ideas.
- Rhyme Ladders: Generate rhyming possibilities from a random word for 5-10 minutes, then use those words to create rhyming couplets. This helps us practice creating neural pathways in our brain that connect unexpected ideas, and teaches us to tune in to words that rhyme.
You can learn more about sense writing with this free 60-minute video masterclass titled “Sense Writing: The Language of Lyrics”
To ensure you stick to this system, consider using the concept of “habit stacking” – which I learnt from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear – by attaching these exercises to an existing routine or activity in your day. This increases the likelihood of us turning songwriting into a habit.
Another thing which helps is to dedicate a 30 min block of time in your schedule to practice songwriting. This practice doesn’t have to be goal oriented, you just have to do something songwriting related such as immersive listening.
30 min is often the average amount of time it takes for your psyche to relax so you might find that you have a great flow going by the end of the 30 min. However, because you only scheduled 30 min, there’s no pressure to continue if you don’t want to.
System 2: Collecting and Organising Ideas
An efficient system for capturing and organizing songwriting ideas is essential to eliminate the struggle of facing a blank page. You need to ensure that you have multiple methods of recording your ideas, so that you can store your ideas no matter where you are.
I personally recommend an application called Evernote. I’m not sponsored by them – this is just what I’ve been using to record ideas. I enjoy Evernote because you can embed links to Spotify, record voice notes and collect all sorts of multimedia in one place, instead of having multiple untitled voice memos sitting in your phone.
It’s just as important to have a way to organise all those ideas. Here are the 5 kinds of notes that I myself – and many songwriters I know – keep:
- Titles: This is where I store any words or phrases that I feel come prepackaged with a concept or story. It’s also where I store words or phrases that feel like they could be song hooks.
- Lines: This is where I store any interesting lines of lyrics that I come up with or read. These usually aren’t attached to a concept yet, and just feel like good potential lyric lines.
- Melodies: This note stores voice memos of melodies.
- Chord Progressions: This note contains links to songs that I listen to, where I find something really interesting about their chord progression.
- Songwriting Methods: This is where I would store approaches to songwriting. Some examples are “Write a song using a loop”, “Start a song with a chorus” or “Write a song using parallel modulation”.
System 3: Seeking Accountability
The idea here is to do something like joining a songwriting group or enrolling in a course to make yourself accountable for your deadlines and goals. Approximately 2 years ago, I was commissioned to write songs for an audiobook by Penguin Random House. I needed accountability for me to hit the strict deadlines so I joined a songwriting group and it helped me tons.
To help you with that, here’s a songwriting group that I run which you can join. The way it works is that a prompt comes every two weeks, and there’s a deadline every two weeks for you to submit a song by. A deadline helps with productivity, and forces you to hold yourself accountable for your own time and work.
In addition, having a cohort of people that you work with means that there are people you will disappoint if you don’t submit anything. On the flip side, there are people you will impress if you do something you’re proud of.
Getting an external prompt is also a great way to jumpstart the creative process, especially if you’re struggling to come up with ideas yourself. Lastly, a songwriting group will provide you with feedback, which can help you to improve your craft.
Conclusion: 3 Simple Systems to Help You Make Time for Songwriting
The systems outlined in this article offer practical strategies for songwriters struggling to find time in their busy lives. Remember, making time for your creative endeavors is not about waiting for the right moment but actively carving it out of your daily life. With the right workflow, anyone can write a song in under an hour.
If you would like more details, explanations and examples, then be sure to check out the video now.
And to learn more about writing songs fast, check out this video titled “How to Write Songs in Under an Hour”.
Turn your inspiration into beautiful songs with step-by-step guidance through two professional songwriting methods. By the end of this course, not only will your tool belt be stocked; you’ll have a plan and a method for finishing your songs – all of them: