As a guitar player, I get asked to help people with songwriting a lot. I always try to be really prepared, coming with lots of melody, lick, and chord progression ideas, but when it comes to lyrics, I’ve always just told whoever I’m writing with that I am not a lyricist. Lyrics kind of freak me out to be honest! I love writing, being creative, and actually really like singing, but when it comes to putting it all together, something in me just nopes right out!
However, this year I think something in me is starting to change. I think it may be because of three huge lessons I learned last year from doing music and this blog. I’ve been learning a lot about what coming up with creative ideas takes, and all of a sudden I have become obsessed with coming up with new ideas and seeing what they turn into. I wanted to share with you a little about what I’ve learned, so you can stretch your creativity and become a better guitar player/ songwriter! Also, if you are an awesome lyricist I would love if you’d share what’s helped you in the comments section.
Before I share these tips, here’s something to know about me (so you genuinely know there is nothing special about me that makes me have some creative power that you don’t have):
Last year, I jumped into music and blogging full-time from working in customer service at a healthcare compliance company (which TBH I did love all the people there and had an awesome team!). But the work was 0 percent creative. I vividly remember one of my co-worker’s musician friends coming in the office and saying “ Wow I could never do a job like this. I’m way too creative!” At the time I really wanted to do music, but financially couldn’t justify quitting, so my soul was just crushed thinking I was this bowl of oatmeal (or milquetoast you could say) non-artistic type of person. I felt that there was nothing about me that was qualified to be creative, or that had set me up to have acceptable artistic ideas!
Ok that being said, here are a few things I learned this year that have REALLY helped my creativity and made me extremely excited to try writing lyrics and come up with new ideas.
1) Being happy and confident in who you are
Having a strong sense of self-acceptance is a huge help and lets my mind think of new ideas before I put pen to paper. I think something that actually helped with this was Instagram (weirdly enough). Last year, my page started growing and I started meeting a lot of amazing people who also love music -- it was super encouraging to me. I have LOVED getting to meet different musicians and people who are in the music community and who are figuring things out with me. I have talked about this a little on here, but let me start by saying, normally, my page is super positive. I LOVE getting to interact with you all and for those of you who have told me my content has inspired you or resonated with you- thank you so much! But last year as my Instagram grew, there were a few rando accounts that would say some really hurtful things.
Almost every video I did would have one comment that would say I used way too much reverb, or one that said not enough reverb. I had a mom leave a long comment about how my playing was disgraceful, I had a thread of comments that talked about how ugly I was, I had a comment saying it was annoying how I looked at the camera sometimes… Like any choice I made, someone would seem to have a problem with it. At first I was like WTF! These people don’t even know me. It can really hurt when anyone tears you down (even if it’s something silly like online!) or when people assume something about you without knowing who you are.
To continue to have so much love and excitement for the people I was connecting with, I had to develop a tougher shell and realize that occasional mean comments might be something I had to deal with. Once my fear of someone not liking my playing came true, it actually took a lot of the power out of it. The worry of what would happen if someone didn’t like you/ your work can sometimes be worse than having someone occasionally say something mean. I can still get hurt by things, but it won’t stop me from being very truest version of myself, the person who I believe God made me to be. I think truly not caring what other people think about your ideas (or imagining the worst case scenario of opening up and and sharing your ideas) gives way to new creativity that’s coming from your uniqueness! It’s scary thinking about opening myself up, only to get rejected, but 1) Know you have valuable amazing things in your head to share 2) You might get rejected by someone, so look for the people who get you!
2) Turn off your inner judge
When I took a songwriting class in college, one of the major takeaways was not being too protective of your ideas and being ok with putting something that may be awful out there. Apparently, especially with lyric writing, this is so important. Basically, this means letting the ideas spill out of your mind and be ok with them being terrible. A good exercise for this is the 3 minute writing challenge. This is where you set a timer for 3 minutes and do not stop writing for that entire time. It’s a good way to free up your mind from judging your thoughts too fast and missing out on some great ideas. I think that’s why so many of us have all our best revelations when we are falling asleep or driving. You can get to the place where your mind wandering!
3) Turn off your phone.
Recently, I have been trying to stop the habit of googling everything to replace thinking. How am I to be my own creative self with a ton of other people’s thoughts and logic in my head? Apparently, this has become a bit of an issue in co-writes according to some songwriters (like using Rhyme dictionary and Tumbler etc to think of ideas instead of coming up with them yourself) and I have definitely been guilty of using Google as a crutch when I can’t think of anything. It’s ok to put things down and come back another time if nothing is coming to you, and I think it will actually stretch your brain and make getting to a place of creativity easier. Practicing songwriting and being creative is just as much something you need to put work into as learning a scale or lick on guitar.
I hope some of those ideas are helpful to you! The biggest thing to remember is no matter what your paying profession or past experience is, you have these amazing and creative ideas inside of you. If you put something stupid down or have a creative idea you hate later on, be proud because it means you are working on you are on your way to ideas you like better. I have always liked the quote by Ira Glass about how having good taste is basically why we are disappointed with our creative work, but it’s so important to keep practicing until you come up with things you love!
As always thanks so much for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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