The Worst Songwriting Tip I Know

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I was in high school when I became fascinated with songwriting. It’s funny to think about that, because I was not a natural, and songwriting didn’t come easily for me. Still doesn’t.

Nevertheless, I can’t seem to stop loving it.

When I started reading books about the craft of songwriting, I was amazed. Some of those books have really great content (all kinds of tips, encouragement, and insight for writers). But inevitably, and unfortunately, there are also songwriting books with content that is really…uninspiring.

I still remember the absolute worst writing tip I ever read. I call it the worst not because it was awful but because it was all wrong for me. What was the tip, you ask? Basically, the author recommended a little trick for finding song ideas, and the strategy was simple:

That’s right – eavesdropping on conversations of strangers was recommended as a way to find material or inspiration – a quote, an expression, a story, whatever. So, I tried it at a local coffee shop.

On my very first day of eavesdropping, I found out that listening in on random conversations of random people can lead to regret. I definitely heard some things I didn’t want to hear. And as a result, eavesdropping quickly disappeared from my arsenal of techniques. Thankfully, song ideas spring from a lot of different sources.

Song ideas pop up everywhere – sometimes in the middle of sitting with a buddy for a drink.

Ideas for songs are everywhere. They have a wonderful way of flashing by in the everyday observations and interactions of life. For example, ideas pop up sometimes in the middle of sitting with a buddy for a drink (of Kool-Aid). When something like that happens, a lot of writers reach for a napkin to jot down the idea.

Other times, you simply find yourself getting ready in the morning, singing a phrase that’s stuck in your head, though you have no idea where you got it from.

And of course, there are those turbulent times — moments when it seems the wrong person has walked out of your life, and a song basically pours out of you as soon as you open your mouth to express your feelings.

So, eavesdropping didn’t work for me, but I’m glad life sparks inspiration in plenty of other ways.


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