Practicing Inspiration

Where do ideas come from? From the cosmos? From some higher plane? Perhaps. There is a popular feeling among many artists that ideas arrive only in the form of an unsolicited epiphany – that inspiration cannot be learned or practiced. I call BS.

Prepping Your Brain
Inspiration is something you put yourself in a frame of mind to discover, and there are many ways to practice it. They may seem unrelated at first, but each plays a role in "formatting" your brain for inspiration. Let’s talk about a few:

Write Every Day
It is critical to write every single day. If developing that habit is difficult for you, limit yourself to ten minutes and no more. Never give yourself an excuse to slack off subsequent days by binging. Once writing daily is a habit, extend your sessions.

Write Lots of Songs
Once you’ve disciplined yourself to write every day, your song output will naturally increase. This is a good thing, because if you want to write great songs – not good songs, but really great songs – you’ll have to write lots and lots of songs. Quality only exists in the midst of quantity.

Do Something Different
Doing the same thing over and over yields the same result over and over. Learn to purposefully change. If you normally write on guitar, try the piano. If you normally write in your living room, try the back yard. If you normally write on paper, try writing with chalk on the sidewalk. You get the idea. Force yourself to experience the process differently.

Stop Trying to Work With Nothing
Nothing will kill your creativity like a blank page. Never, ever stare at one. That's like a sculptor staring at a table waiting for clay to appear. Put some words on your page, even if they mean nothing. Record some notes. Give yourself something to manipulate. Don’t think…start.

Stop Editing
Never write and edit at the same time.

Stop Whining
The truth is that songwriting, like any art, is mostly about work. Commit to it. Put in the hard yards. Anyone can write songs when it is easy. Great songwriters keep writing when things get tough. That’s when your most original thinking occurs.

What Happens to Your Brain
When I was a kid I had a Rubik’s Cube. I worked on it every single day, and after much thought and diligence I managed to solve the top layer. Then something strange happened: I solved the second layer in my sleep! I woke up and worked it out as if I had known it all my life. Years later I had a similar experience with the video game Tetris. After playing it for a few weeks I found that any time my mind wasn’t busy, it was fitting shapes together!

Writing songs is no different. When you constantly engage your mind in working out the puzzles of songwriting, you will find that “inspiration” comes easier and easier. There is no lack of material to inspire human creativity. It is literally everywhere. The key is seeing it for what it is.

What helps you find inspiration?

*Photo by Capt. Tim


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