It’s hard to break old habits, but it’s also tough to establish new ones — and that’s certainly true for me when it comes to songwriting. Here’s the 7 songwriting habits I’d love to encourage in myself. How about you?
1. To finish songs I start.
So often, I’ll bring in a tune to a songwriting group for some feedback, and then bring it home and put it aside without making edits and really sitting down to finish it. Sure, it’s fine to toss a tune in the trash if you hate it, but there are plenty of songs I’ve written that probably would be groovy if I just disciplined myself to sit down and fully finish more of them.
2. To have a daily songwriting practice.
Having a daily practice of songwriting — something, anything — is a great habit to have. However, I tend to get going when the spirit moves me , rather than as a regular ritual. However, whenever I DO make it a habit to spend 15 or 30 minutes putting something together, it always works — creation happens.
3. To listen to more music by great songwriters.
I think listening to music helps songwriting in so many ways — and sometimes I think I skip over that part. Delving into a songwriter’s catalog, or more deeply into albums you haven’t heard much, can be inspirational and aspirational. Excuse me, I’ve got to go get some PAID downloads!
4. To practice finished songs regularly.
It’s one thing to finish a tune you really like, but could you really play it out? So often I’ll want to try a new tune at a gig, but haven’t really practiced it…so it would be great to get more into the habit of practicing new tunes as soon as I finish them and debut them, perhaps, at open mics before going full-throttle at a show.
5. To be more fearless as a songwriter.
I have made attempts, of late, to try writing songs in varied chord progressions, melodies that aren’t my usual habit, or different musical styles. But I could do so much more of that…if I didn’t fear making a fool of myself. Fear keeps lots of us from trying new things, as we worry we’ll look foolish or just out-and-out fail. But it’s the only way to grow as a songwriter.
6. To stop feeling envious of other songwriters.
It’s so easy to start playing the envy game — the one where you start saying (hopefully silently, to yourself) things like “I wish I had written that song,” and “Why does that person win all those songwriting contests?” and “I’m so &$#%@( jealous of that songwriter I could spit!” I admit, I do it sometimes myself. But a habit of gratitude — for any modicum of talent you might have and your mental/physical ability to write in the first place — is SO much better.
7. To go over old ideas that I’ve written or recorded.
Whether you have piles of old papers with lyrics on them or old tapes/Garageband recordings of ideas, it’s so sad to have evidence of inspiration and then never use any of it! I’ll probably never have a good system of organizing lyric or melodic ideas — I don’t have a great organizing system in the rest of my life, either — but it’s always inspirational to just sit down sometimes and go through stuff, and then write something new based on something old!