As you’ve probably figured out if you keep up with this blog, I love a good songwriting deadline or challenge. But I particularly love songwriting prompts — that is, when you’re provided with a little shard of an idea that can inspire an entire song. Perhaps it’s a word, or a phrase, or just a concept or even visual image that helps you take creative flight.
Have you joined in the May Songwriting Scene Challenge based on the prompt “bicycle”? You still have time to take part in the fun!
I like prompts because they:
1. Inevitably inspire some kind of idea or reaction — if you allow your mind to wander for a bit.
2. Differ for everyone — each songwriter is going to come up with something different, often drastically so. It’s fun to see what comes up!
3. Are easy to come up with — just open the dictionary or thesaurus and randomly point to a word; look at your favorite daily newspaper headlines; or scroll through a beautiful photo site.
4. Combined with a hard deadline, give you a no-fail framework and formula for finishing a new song!
Some people offer prompts as a free writing exercise — that is, without any restriction on your writing to turn into a song, or even to be coherent. My songwriting blog buddy Nicholas Tozier offers a great free writing prompt-based exercise on his blog, Song Written.
And, of course, writing based on prompts is hardly limited to songwriting. Prompts are powerful tools for any kind of creative writer. This post from Writers Digest offers hundreds of contributed scenarios as prompts.
I have a group of songwriting colleagues, including the lovely Carolann Solebello, who are being led by the talented Cary Cooper through a year-long series of weekly prompts for a project called Real Women Real Songs. All the prompts are highly-powerful words such as “threatened,” “disbelief” or “wounded.” While a small group of artists are creating videos for the project on the site, anyone can join in on the prompts and come up with their own tunes. I plan to join in the coming weeks!
Don’t forget: the May Songwriting Scene Challenge ends this Thursday night at 11:56 pm…we already have some great songs in the SongwritingScene Challenges SoundCloud Group (including mine!), so check out the prompt and rules/info for the challenge – and then post your finished tune inspired by “bicycle”!