Where to Get Ideas for Writing Songs
If you write a lot of songs there will come a time when inspiration and ideas start running low and you may start wondering how you’re going to come up with enough great ideas to fill several albums. Especially if you are writing a lot of lyrics, because you have to think of entire concepts for songs.
When looking for ideas to write songs about, some tools many songwriters turn to are writing prompts, journaling, people watching, dream journaling, and creating songs based on song title ideas.
This is one roadblock where the use of tools makes songwriting a skill rather than just a talent.
Creative Writing Prompts
Songwriting is a bit of a niche but luckily, creative writing is a much bigger field and has a lot of tools that also work if you are planning to sing your words.
One of these tools is writing prompts.
These are essentially commands, phrases or questions, for you to answer shortly in writing, that are meant to inspire you to write something creative.
Here’s a few examples.
- Write a song about how fear tastes.
- If you were born in a war torn country, what would your day be like?
- Write about how life would be like if you were a park bench.
- Write a story about knowing something is about to happen but having no evidence to support it.
- You found a handprint on your mirror, how did it get there? What does it mean?
- Write a story about how the world would be like if it was nighttime all the time.
- Write a story about being stranded on a remote highway with no cellphone service.
If you need more ideas check out a writing prompt generator. Here is a link to one https://www.servicescape.com/writing-prompt-generator.
There’s also a ton of prompt lists out there. Just pick a prompt you think would be fun to write about.
Thing here is, even though you’re not sitting down to write lyrics, now you have a concept and a story about something that is happening.
So now you have something you could work with, even if you don’t use the actual story as lyrics the way it is.
Sometimes one idea sparks another idea, until you discover a gold nugget and go from there.
Journaling using CBT Prompts
Like many arts, songwriting can be very therapeutic and healing, so it’s no surprise that using mental health tools can also help us make interesting works of artistic expression.
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is a type of therapy based on the idea that our thoughts and our behaviors influence our emotions.
So CBT journaling prompts allow you to analyze things like your self-talk, situations, etc and how it affects your emotions.
Then you can write about a situation objectively and write a song about it. How do you feel about the situation? What meaning do you get out of the situation? etc.
Many people fall in love with songs because it puts into words the way a listener might feel.
People can struggle to find the words themselves, so when a song does it for them it makes them feel seen and understood. The song connects with them.
But how do you analyze your own thoughts and emotions? They don’t teach this in school.
I’m going to give you that tool.
Try running a search for “CBT journaling prompts”. They are like writing prompts but instead of entertainment it’s for introspection.
Here are some CBT journaling prompt examples:
- Think back to the last big problem you had and list what your coping mechanisms were.
- List 3 things you are grateful for.
- How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
- What evidence is there to support your thoughts about this issue?
- Are you living your life in the past, present, or future? Write down anecdotal evidence to support your answer.
This is fun to do just in general but it can spark some great ideas too. There are a lot of things that people do without realizing, and when you just sit and watch you often notice many of these things.
Ever been driving and you look at the car next to you and someone is knuckle deep picking out a booger with the window open? Maybe they think no one notices, maybe they don’t care.
Why don’t they do the same thing outside the car if they’d be visibly exposed in both situations?
You could write a super deep song about false sense of security, inspired entirely out of watching this and no one would know this is where you got the song from.
It would actually be pretty funny and take a lot of the pressure of songwriting off.
So watching people, analyzing their behavior, and even playfully making up backstories for them can be a source of inspiration. Make it a game. Give it a shot next time you’re at the mall, or at a bar.
Dreams are a peek into your subconscious. When you sleep, your brain often works out problems, processes whatever happened during the day, or sometimes just shows you something really weird.
Many artists have weird dreams and then put that into their work. As a musician you might even get melodies, riffs and chord progressions from this. You might have had this happen to you already, where you have a dream with a really sick riff or melody and wake up at 4am to grab your guitar and try to transcribe it.
I recommend you keep a dream journal and write down whatever you can remember first thing in the morning. Keywords are fine if you want to keep it short. (Ex. Zombies attacking my neighborhood, laser shotgun, Pedro Pascal driving a tank through my house. You know, keywords).
This will help you have more vivid dreams, and it increases the chances you’ll have them and remember them more often. Then you can write songs about them.
Cool Song Titles
This is a really useful approach. I’ve used it. I know many other musicians who do this, and it is to come up with a cool sounding song title and write a song based on how the title makes you feel or come up with a witty concept with an unexpected twist.
Maybe you came up with something like “Old Man Strength” and it inspires your pop punk band to write a funny song about how strong one of your bandmates’ grandfathers is.
Or you come up with something exotic like “Sands of Chronos” and write a 12 minute prog rock track in Harmonic Phrygian about an immortal sand wizard.
Words have aesthetics, and you can use them as inspiration to write songs. It also doesn’t hurt to have some cool sounding titles in case you need one for a song or album name.
Wrapping it up
When you are writing a lot of songs writer’s block is unavoidable, and should be seen as a sign that you are progressing and pushing yourself.
I hope this list gives you some places to turn to for inspiration when the natural drive and inspiration isn’t coming.
It’s also totally cool to just throw things at the wall and see what sticks because sometimes creating is more about discovering the song and listening for what it is asking for.
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