After looking back and taking stock of what last year had to offer, it’s time for us to dig in and start preparing ourselves for songwriting success in the year to come. There are so many facets to life as a songwriter that there’s always something we can do to move the ball forward. To that end, I’ve listed a few New Year’s resolutions starting with the little things and moving up to the big ones.
1. Write down a song title every day.
If you take a minute or two every morning to wake up your inner songwriter, you’ll be amazed at the cumulative results by year’s end. Keep a small notebook by your bed and write down a song title first thing every day. Don’t spend a ton of time on these, just write down the first thing that comes to mind. Some of your titles will be uninspired but others will be genuinely unique and song-ready. This notebook is a great way of not having to start from scratch when it’s time to sit down and write. Sometimes a title that seemed dull when you were writing it down will inspire a great song when you see it again later. It’s a small thing, but it’s a reminder that inspiration is an active pursuit.
2. Find a new (or your first) co-writer.
Carrying the weight of creating a song by yourself is both a worthwhile challenge and a discouraging burden, depending on the day. Sharing the load with a co-writer is a great way to stay motivated and explore different approaches to songwriting. If you’ve already got an established group of co-writers, go find someone new to get you out of your regular routine. If you’ve never co-written, now’s the time. Finding the right co-writer who has strengths where you have weaknesses and vice versa will simply make for better songs. It takes courage and a bit of a thick skin to open up your creative process to another writer, but if you’re both respectful and have a great song as the ultimate goal, you’ll almost certainly be glad you did it.
3. Write a song in a genre that’s new to you.
As a country songwriting friend said to me once, “there are lots of countries.” In other words, try to write a song this year in a musical style that’s unfamiliar to you. If you write country, try to write a jazz song. If you write rock, try country. By expanding your repertoire, you’ll force yourself to study different styles of music. This, at the very least, will give you a better understanding of what goes into creating your preferred musical genre. By filtering a different musical style through the prism of your experience, you’ll undoubtedly come up with something unique.
4. Don’t give up.
Songwriting is not a profession for the faint-hearted or the easily discouraged. It can be both exhilarating and demoralizing. All this to say, no matter how bleak things may appear currently or how far away success may seem, the only trait all successful songwriters share is that they haven’t given up. A songwriting career is a marathon not a sprint. If things are tough, it’s ok to slow down, give yourself a break and go on “input” for a while. Sometimes just living your life instead of trying to document it is the best way to regain your motivation. Resolve to find the strength to keep at it this year. There’s a great song out there just waiting for you to write it.
Happy New Year!