“I don’t know what to write about.”

“What if my lyrics come out sounding corny?”

If you’ve ever sat down to write a song but come up with a blank, its often because of these two things. Sometimes even when you really want to write a song, there just seems to be nothing decent to write about.

So how do you move through this and get some ink on that paper?

Today I have four fun and easy songwriting exercises you can use to generate ideas for song lyrics. As always, these come from my personal list of breaking through the ‘blank page syndrome’ and they work a treat.

Remember that the key take away is to not think about it too much and to just have fun with these exercises.

If you get bogged down in the whole ‘OMG I have no decent hook or topic therefore nothing to write about’ then you’ll never start.

So let’s put the perfectionist in you aside for today and get you used to just writing.

ONE. Pick a topic (any topic) and write about it

This can be anything from talking about your dog to riding your bike.

So for example I’m just going to pick riding my bike. Here’s what your writing may look like:

“My bike is red, its so lovely. When I ride I feel free. So free. I love to ride around the neighbourhood and I wave at all the boys. Oops my skirt just flew up! Arrggghh! Better be wearing pants instead. I’ve got the cutest little basket of flowers on the front of my bike. Its filled with yellow flowers. A basket of yellow flowers. I’ll bring it round to you. Woo. When I fly past your street I get a tingle in my feet. The birds call out and I ring my bell about and Ive got flowers…. yellow flowers in a basket. I’ll bring them round to youuuuuuuu!”

Ok…. see how I didn’t give too much thought into what i was writing there? I literally just had fun with it and ended up writing a bunch of material that can spark off ideas.

If you do this often enough you’ll start to get ideas as you go.

Like the yellow flowers in the basket.

My writing started to rhyme at one stage too as I got into the groove. I kind of like the idea of writing about riding your bike around your neighbourhood just hoping to get a glance of the boy you like… OR if you’re a guy you could write about seeing the pretty girl with yellow flower in her basket as she rides past you each day.

Hey, The Girl From Ipanema was written just like this!

Just have a go. Its supposed to be fun and if it does’ generate any ideas today, it may next time you look at what you’ve written.

 

TWO. Borrow from your favourite writers

This one is an exercise for getting the songwriting juices flowing. You can’t copy what other writers have produced BUT you can use their words for ideas and as an influence. So here’s what to do:

  1. Hit up google and copy and paste the lyrics of your fave song into Word.
  2. Then delete every second line.
  3. In the space where the line went, add your own lyrics.
  4. So you’re using their first line as inspo and adding your own to the second line.
  5. This will help you learn to structure your lyrics and to start rhyming and get some flow going.

For example: (These are the lyrics for ‘Fever’)

Never know how much I love you

Never know how much I care (add your line in here)

When you put your arms around me

I get a Fever that’s so hard to bear (add your line in here)

 

THREE. Use word association to get you going.

This one is always fun.

Remember those silly word association games where someone says ‘blue’ and you have to say whichever word pops into your head next? Its usually something that reminds you of the word that was first said.

So just pick any object that’s in your immediate environment to start you off. Write that word down then write down the next word that pops into your head and keep on going and writing for about a minute.

Before long you’ll have a page full of words and your brain will start to come up with new ideas just by going through this exercise. If you’re really drawing a blank one day, get your songwriting juices started by having fun with this exercise first.

FOUR. Pick a memory and write about that.

Have you ever lay down and just had a good old fashion daydream about a particularly good time you had once? Whether you realise it or not, your own life experiences make for brilliant lyric writing fuel so why not use them!
Let’s just say you went on a trip to Africa on holiday. Have a think about what made that trip so good and just start jotting down whatever comes into your head. It can be complete sentences, paragraphs or just single words.
For example: when I went to Africa the first thing I noticed were the muted colours. It was like Australia but in pastel. The soft greys and blues intermingling with peaches and white-yellows in the sky. I remember the shadows cast long over the ground by trees which stretched out until they faded in with everything else. The giraffes, graceful walking along with their heads higher than the trees.
I wasn’t trying to be poetic or trying to rhyme or anything here. I was literally just writing what came into my head. For me, the one idea that sparked from writing this was the pastel colours. I could see them so clearly so maybe I’d write more about those. I’d explore pastel colours a little bit and think about where else Id see them and see if I could develop the idea more.
If it turns into a song, then that’s fab! If not, it doesn’t matter. The next time I might get something that works. the point is that I no longer have a blank page. I have ideas.
If you regularly do exercises like this just for 1-2 minutes at a time, you are training your brain to think like a songwriter. These exercises will become more fruitful and before long you’ll have a book full of ideas to draw upon.

Your challenge…

Just have a go right now and pick one of the exercises above and see what you come up with – then let me know if it sparked off any good ideas in the comments below.

Nicola xx

Want more help with your songwriting? Grab my free 20 minute songwriting class here.