One of the most common issues folks talk to me about is the ' I have absolutely no idea' scenario or blank page syndrome. This week I worked with a small group of teenage boys who have to write a song as part of their high school music assessments. Now the problem in that sentence is 'who have to write'. One kid, in particular, was seriously stumped by having to start writing lyrics. Part of his conundrum was that the assignment had been structured in a way that the boys had been asked to write music first. I was brought in to help them write their lyrics. This boy was so detached from his music he couldn't connect any words with his track.
There was no specific topic that they were supposed to cover and the lack of boundaries, while utterly freeing to some students, provoked a kind of songwriters' agoraphobia in this guy. The other kids were beavering away but he was dumbfounded and kept reinforcing his lack of flow by saying 'I have absolutely no idea' on high rotate. He was literally sitting at a desk with a pen and blank paper.
While a high school assignment seems quite an artificial writing environment, many songwriters who want to get better at writing do find themselves saying 'now what'. Whether it's for the next album or an upcoming gig or a song you said you'd write for your sister's wedding, suddenly everything dries up and you can't muster up a halfway decent thought. What to do??
Time to pull the trigger. As Sting once said, 'Anything can be the trigger for a song.'
Give yourself a jump start/kickstart/quickfire jolt with your handy set of triggers. Say what?
These are a close at hand bunch of audio or visual short and sharp cues that make you respond in a hurry.
These can include but aren't limited to:
*A list of song titles that are currently charting. Write down the ones you like (whether you like the song or not).
*A list of book titles from an online recommended reading list. Write down the ones that appeal.
*Listen to the week's tracks from SoundOut Track Of The Day ( new tracks emailed to you direct 5 days of 7 ) via www.slicethepie.com . Write down whatever words/emotions come into your head while you're listening.
*Listen to the latest cd you've bought or got from the library (yes, I'm deliberately retro!). Keep a list of artists you're going to follow or follow up just for this purpose.
*Look at the words in a magazine (non music) that are printed in different fonts, colour and sizes. Lorde famously got the title of her song Royals from a full page photograph in National Geographic magazine of a baseball player in action. His team was the Royals and the cursive font on the front of his shirt set something off in her mind to great effect!
*Look at the words on the street that are printed in different fonts, colour and sizes - billboards/posters/poems from Phantom Bill Stickers/ ads in shop windows. What catches your eye? What sets you off?
From having nothing, you should now have some words on a page and something to shape or develop.
Let me know if it works for you. And the boy who had no words? He starting writing a song called 'White Walls'. The rhyming dictionary helped!
Hi, I'm Charlotte Yates and I can help you get better at writing songs.