As creatives, many of us have no problem coming up with new ideas. We hear music everywhere; in the car, in the shower, before we go to sleep. The spark is there, but the one thing that normally lacks is structure. Our ideas are only ideas until we bring them to life, and that's where many of us struggle to create consistency. In order to realize our full potential as writers, and to progress creatively and professionally, we need to establish a productive songwriting routine.
1. Write. Every. Day.
Write every day. And I really mean it. Most artists fail to realize that what we do is a craft. It's something that we must nurture and the only way for us to get better is to do it. Write every day, write something even if it's bad (most of it usually is). The point is not to write a hit song every day, or produce our next opus. It is simply to give adequate attention to our gifts and sharpen our skills.
Great craftspeople of all disciplines hone their craft every day, at every level of professionalism. A mechanic will never achieve success if they only work on cars twice a week. The chef that cooks once a week is no master chef at all.
Set aside time each morning, afternoon or evening to just write. Don't worry about the final product, the production or the intention, just write. It could be something that you will eventually use for your own project, a friend's project, your pitch/sync library or maybe and most likely... nothing at all!
Another benefit to this daily structure is that it increases our chances of getting lucky. Luck is defined as opportunity meets preparation. When we write every day, we are always prepared. You never know when the phone is going to ring, or the next time you'll get thrown into a room or a situation that presents great opportunity. In our ambition, we must be mindful not to chase 'luck' and neglect our commitment to ourselves as craftspeople. Be wholly devoted to your craft, and that preparation will show up the next time opportunity presents itself.
My suggestion is to commit to one hour of uninterrupted writing five days a week, eventually stretching that to three hours a day provided your lifestyle allows for it. Be kind to yourself. There are good days and bad days, days when things flow freely and days when you struggle to get more than a few lines or bars written. The only discipline required is to pick up the guitar, piano, laptop, pen or paper and start.
Establishing and maintaining commitments in our lives is a measure of our self-worth, and one of the best ways to build that self-worth. We, as artists, are naturally critical of ourselves. Many of us have big aspirations, we idolize and admire those who have come before us and strive to create art that's larger than life. When we compare ourselves to others, we often feel inadequate and discouraged. This pollutes our process and negatively influences our creativity over time. Trusting the process is the only way to create the results we desire.
2. Collaborate With Others
Collaboration is key. Sharing in our creative process improves the quality of our work and provides another layer of productivity and accountability. In the process of collaboration we push the limits on our own creativity and surprise ourselves. Not only that, the only way we can commit to a productive routine is if we are rewarded for our hard work, and the joy of creating with others is a fantastic reward in and of itself.
Try to write with others 1-2 times a week. Set dates and times, and be consistent. Your writing partners will help hold you accountable and vice versa. Having difficulty finding others to work with where you live? Finding other musicians to create with has never been easier with the accessibility of the internet, and apps like Zoom, FaceTime and Whatsapp.
You can even try reaching out to friends and followers in the ToneGym community, post a status in the ToneGym Cafe, or check out the forums in-between ear-training to find musicians interested in collaborating online.
3. Release Your Music!
There is nothing like sharing our work as a means of creating routine and accountability. A release gives us structure, end goals, and something to work towards. Without goals, we can't possibly maintain a productive routine. Like I mentioned in tip 2, we can't hope to maintain a routine without a reward for our hard work, and a release is both a reward and a celebration. The best part of releasing music is that it's a renewable resource; we can keep doing it. And it's affordable.
Releasing music on a large scale has never been easier. Websites like Distrokid, AWAL, CD Baby and Tunecore make distribution a breeze. Who benefits most from the democratization of the music business? Creatives.
Try releasing music every 6-8 weeks. Releasing a new batch of songs you've been working on as part of tips 1 and 2 is a great way to keep things moving. To create even more immediacy, share something from your creative process every day. Many musicians in the new music business will post music on Soundcloud the day it's recorded, others share stories, BTS, snippets or demos on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. You don't even need to put a lot of time or money into producing content. Why not try simply posting a one take video of what you write each day on Instagram Reels or TikTok? Nothing is stopping us from sharing our work at a moment's notice, and I encourage you to take full advantage of these free platforms to reinforce commitment to a productive routine.
Without the structure of sharing our work, most of it will sit and collect digital dust somewhere on a harddrive. We end up feeling discouraged, overwhelmed and giving up. Pushing for a release provides added motivation for us to commit fully to our routine. It provides immediate feedback, tangibility and most importantly, it's fun!
Have an existing songwriting routine you care to share? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!