[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. Read his piece on the benefits of collaborative songwriting from last month, too!]
Songwriting is simultaneously extremely fun and terrifying. You may feel you have so much you want to say and so many emotions you’d like to express…but where does one even begin? Too many songwriters become overwhelmed and abandon their work, while many others get caught up in everything else going on in their lives, and they find they haven’t written in a long time.
Finding the time to sit down and put pen to paper, facing your fears and actually writing a song, is perhaps the hardest part of being a songwriter. It might sound silly to say, but the toughest thing any songwriter needs to do is…actually write.
It might sound impossible, but the best way to become a great songwriter, and potentially even one who does this for a living, is to write every day. Here’s why.
If You Want To Be Great At Something, Do It Every Day
This is a time-tested saying, and there’s a reason: it’s true. If you want to not just learn something, but be truly great at it, you need to do it every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s acting, writing, singing, playing an instrument, or penning songs—it’s the consistency that will keep you on track to becoming the best songwriter possible.
This might sound daunting, but when I say you should be writing every day, I don’t mean you need to start from scratch and end up with a completely finalized, perfect tune. Some days will be more productive than others, but as long as you’re jotting down some thoughts, stringing words together, and thinking musically, you’re doing exactly what’s necessary.
Also, forming a habit is one of the best ways to become great at something, and doing so requires a commitment of regular intervals. Writing something every day for a few weeks in a row helps your mind become used to thinking in that mode, and you’ll find that when you skip a day or two, you’ll feel strange.
Keep Your Creative Juices Flowing
With the way most people’s minds work, it’s difficult to continuously learn and grow as an artist if that creativity is only tapped into every few days or so. As is the case with an athlete training for a game or an actor prepping for a performance, tapping into the process and stepping into the mindset frequently, and at regular intervals, is a must in order to be at your best.
When you write lyrics, notes, melodies, or work on your craft every day, you keep your creative juices flowing…and while that might sound made up, it’s something many artists can attest to. The more you think about your songs, the more ideas come to mind, and the more you can consider different ways of arranging things, enunciating them, and so on. Now, it’s not great to get stuck on the same pieces and workshop them non-stop, but being musical every day, and especially writing songs (if only parts of them) every single day will prove effective.
Turns You From An Amateur To A Professional
People who jot down a few lines here and there and who occasionally put them together into a song are hobbyists—and that’s fine! If you want to be the kind of musician who only creates music from time to time for the joy of it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and you should feel free to move at your own pace.
If, however, you want to be a professional songwriter, you’ll need to commit to a timetable and to working much, much harder. Nobody makes a living from something they only remember to do every few days, or even less frequently. Most people work 40 hours a week, but those who want to make their living in the arts typically have to devote even more time. That can be difficult to do when you first start out, as many artists have day jobs that pay the bills. I’m not suggesting you need to add another 40 hours to your work week just to become a songwriter (though it would help), but the best thing you can do to get yourself on the right track to one day being a fantastic professional songwriter is to write every single day.
You’ll Have More Material To Work With
As I stated above, you don’t need to write a full song every single day, and in fact, you’ll find it’s probably rare that such success comes to you so quickly. One of the benefits of working on songs in bits and pieces is that you will suddenly realize you have notebooks (or files on your computer or phone, depending on how you work) filled with words, lines, things that rhyme, and ideas that go in every direction. You may soon rack up hundreds of these, and that is excellent, because it means you have a ton of material to play around with.
Even if you’re writing notes every day, it’s a good idea to carve out time to sit down and spend long periods writing, rewriting, and hopefully finalizing some works. This is when you can pick the best of the best from your many ideas and find ways to make them all work with one another. That way, no word or line feels like filler—it can all be your absolute best…and you have all those options because you wrote every single day.
Hugh McIntyre writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.