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Songwriting 101

I just embarked into my first semester of college, which means some of my classes end in "101." When I started, I figured the "101" implied simplicity - this was an incorrect assumption. My educational career has been fairly consistent: good grades do not come naturally, but rather through hard work and dedication. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in what others say..."this class is so easy" or "I barely even study, and I get straight A's." Like, that's so wonderful for you! But not at all applicable in my situation!! 

This got me thinking about songwriting. Does it come naturally? Can someone learn songwriting? In my experience, songs kind of hit me like a train. I often say that my writing process is like an exorcism..it's like the song just comes out of me and bam, there it is on the paper. Writing processes differ for everyone, of course, and they even differ for me. Sometimes I mess around with chords on my guitar for months before anything comes of them. Sometimes, I write a whole song in the notes on my phone in less than two minutes. Other times, I will sit on a phrase (or as I like to call it the "fortune cookie" of my song i.e. the main part that I want people to take away from it) for weeks or months or even a year before the inspiration to finish the whole thing comes.  

A lot of songwriters offer up insight about going through a creative block - but I almost think it's something a writer needs to learn how to deal with on his or her own. I have gone through this a million times. I will go through a period of my life where I am in the most creative head space, writing all the time and loving the things that I am producing. And then, the writer's block hits, and it hurts even more than usual because of the great tunes that happened so recently! So, what changed? Why do we have a limited amount of creativity? How do we most effectively tap into this creativity, and extend its longevity? 

Since I started classes, I have had a very limited amount of time to just sit and write. Between working full time, studying, attending class, playing shows, business meetings, and trying to balance family and friends, I have learned a LOT about time management. I've had an interesting discovery in my busy schedule. The way that I organize my days is to time block (i.e. 7-7:30 am every day, I catch up on emails before I get ready for class, and so on and so forth). So. when I get home from work, class, or a show, I will allow myself approximately 30 minutes to sit and write, whether it be a song, a story, a word vomit in my journal, or anything like this, and it has worked wonders for my writing blocks! I think it has something to do with the fact that I subconsciously am counting down how much time I have to write. This light sort of pressure has pushed me to search my brain for what I actually want to write much quicker than when I have the whole day to "chill." 

Although this may not be a long-term strategy, in the short-term it has made me quite happy, as well as relieved a lot of the stresses that I am facing. So, to answer the question at the beginning of this post: no, I don't think that songwriting is something you can teach. I believe it is something that you will spend your life refining, but just like anything else, you never stop learning about it (just like you never stop learning new things about yourself, too). What to do in a writer's block? Breathe. The song will come. Forcing something that does not feel truthful to you isn't worth it. Being patient is hard, but I believe in patience comes the beauty. So, unlike my courses, I cannot study for songwriting. I can't prepare for when inspiration hits, or when it doesn't. But I can write about the process, and I can learn more about myself and my brain along the way. 

I wish you all a very happy and productive week, and I am sending you my most heartfelt vibes of creativity ~ may the best song you have ever written hit you this week!



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