I have always loved to write (I mean, here I am with a blog). However, songwriting is a hobby that I have always particularly enjoyed. It’s been an outlet for me since I was 12 or 13 years old. Now let me be completely honest: I can tend to have an emotional, head-in-the-clouds personality. So as you can imagine, it wasn’t that difficult for me to find writing inspiration as a hormonal, leisurely teenager. However, as the years have passed, I’ve been forced to reconcile with realities of adulthood, as we all have! Routines, responsibilities, kids, a home to care for–these things are at war for my attention, as they should be. But where does that leave my songwriting process? Where do I find songwriting inspiration when it seems like I’m met with distractions all day long?
If you’re a creative soul, I’m sure you can relate to some of this. Sometimes we can get so busy that we simply become unaware of what’s going on inside. Inspiration and growth are things that happen internally, and they are vital to the songwriting process. So we need to find a way to dig deeper! Let’s talk about some things we can do in order to gain songwriting inspiration and write a great song.
My own songwriting growth story
I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ and nearly all of my songwriting is from a posture of worship. If you aren’t, that doesn’t mean you won’t glean anything from this post. Just know that I will be writing more specifically about inspiration and growth in worship songwriting.
Like I said before, I’ve been a writer since childhood. I could show you some very humorous writings that, to my 12 year old self, seemed like poetic genius. Ah, yes… I am very thankful for growth. Back then, I mostly wrote about God and my emotions. Truthfully, I still do! Some writers are able to draw inspiration from hypotheticals, but I’ve always drawn mine from people and situations in my own life. I like to write about the real, whether it be questions of faith or honest feelings. Thankfully, I know the truth when it comes to my source of connection. And I always strive to lay those hard questions and feelings back at the feet of Jesus.
I actually took a long break from songwriting after I got married. Things just weren’t “volatile” enough any more, ya know? I’m kidding… sort of. Now fast forward 7 years later: my dad, who was also my pastor and mentor in life, passed away. Something about losing him gave me a push to get serious. Truthfully, losing my dad changed my perspective on life completely. When it came to songwriting, I knew I needed to start taking it from just a hobby, to a discipline in obedience to God.
I’m still hesitant to share (vulnerability can be scary), but you can find a few of my songs from a couple of years ago on my YouTube music channel (which at this point in time desperately needs updated… I’ll get to it eventually).
Now that you know the basics of my songwriting journey thus far, I want to share a few tips and ideas that I’ve learned along the way.
Embrace bad days
Embracing bad days can allow us to create songs that are healing to others. Often, the best words are crafted in imperfection. While imperfect days are good at forcing us to feel things we don’t normally, they can also make it difficult to find time to get away and process. Especially if you’re a parent! But we just have to do our best to capture that songwriting inspiration when it strikes.
Thankfully I have a champion husband that works from home and tries to be available for me to take time to process when I need it. I will take that time to write down what I’m thinking/feeling. If I’m having a hard day or am feeling down, I will allow myself to write out my honest feelings in the moment. After that, I will typically ask the Holy Spirit take me back through my own words and find a way to point back to the truth of God and who He is.
I think it’s natural for creators to be more in touch with their emotions, both positive and negative. But if you particularly struggle with resisting the hard, I encourage you to embrace it instead. Have you ever heard the phrase, “hard is not the same as bad”? 2 Corinthians 12:10 in the ESV says this:
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
If we love Jesus, we should be content in our own difficulties. Now, this does not mean that we make it a habit to hang out in negative feelings and attitudes. When things get rough, God doesn’t say it’s okay to hang out in feelings of self-pity. He says for the sake of Christ we are to be content no matter what life throws our way.
Make songwriting a discipline
You may have this idea in your head that the best songs come basically out of nowhere for talented writers. Being both creative and disciplined may seem like an oxymoron. But it’s really not! It’s actually very important if you want to see growth.
Set some goals to take your songwriting to the next level. A few ideas would be to write something every day, keep your writings organized, and eliminate distractions during your writing time. Doing these things will help improve the quality of your songs by leaps and bounds. And in many ways, it makes “finishing” a song quite a bit easier.
Being disciplined eliminates the need to wait around for the perfect storm of songwriting inspiration. No more feeling like the stars have to align in order to write an amazing song. Discipline may not sound fun, but it’s worth the effort!
Be prepared for songwriting inspiration when it strikes
I’m so excited to share about this! Maybe I’m a weird type A person in this way, but I really see value in being prepared.
Let’s start with a personal example. My best lyrics and melodies come when I’m in the middle of something like showering or driving. Can you relate? Maybe it happens to you when you’re on a plane, or in the middle of a crucial project far away from your cozy writing spot. This is why it’s so important to have somewhere to record your ideas nearby all the time.
In today’s day and age, our phones are something that we typically have on us anyway. And they make preparation very easy. I use the Voice Memos app on my iPhone a lot. I am not shy with it. Any time I get an idea, even if it’s just one simple line or melody, I will record it in my voice memos. Those little snippets don’t always turn into a song, but many times, they do!
If you think you’ll remember a lyric or a melody without recording it somehow, you won’t. I know this from experience. You’ll sit down with your instrument and maybe get close to what you had in your mind at the beginning, but it just won’t quite be the same. I know for me, if I was inspired with a song line or melody, it’s often my best draft. That doesn’t mean that other lines and melodies don’t take work and thought. But getting those truly inspired pieces down somewhere is important.
Write it out even if it doesn’t make sense
I’ll cover more on this in the next section, but don’t be afraid to write or record lines that don’t fully make sense to you at first. Many times I will write out a line knowing that it isn’t accurately articulating what I want to say, but when I come back to it a few days later I can easily correct it. There is no room for perfectionism when it comes to getting out ideas.
If you’re feeling something, get out a rough draft and refine it later. With that being said…
Don’t get stuck in your head (or your heart)
Overthinking can be an illness. If you want your songwriting to be natural, take breaks often. Go outside and take a walk, clean your bathroom, or tickle your kids. If you find yourself hurrying to just finish the song or make something overly perfect, it may be time to step away for a while.
It’s okay to leave things undone. Leaving things half finished really bothers me in other areas of life, so I understand the struggle. But when it comes to songwriting, the process can’t be forced!
On the other hand, we don’t want to allow our heart to take over either. It’s good, even vital, to pour our hearts out–but don’t be afraid to add a little refinement to those thoughts and emotions. This is how we create great songs! Some examples of what I’m talking about are revising words using a thesaurus, adjusting for rhythm and rhyme, or deleting lines or ideas that don’t make sense or aren’t really true. This is especially important if you are writing worship songs from a Biblical standpoint.
Which of these tips were most helpful to you? How long have you been songwriting? What else have you learned that you can share with me? Let me know below in a comment!