Ever get stuck writing your songs?
You can’t finish a sentence or line
Nothing fits right, can’t find the rhyme.
Got no rhythm, got no flow
Stuck on a lyric, can’t find the note….
It used to get me all the time!
Often it starts subtly, with:
No, I don’t like that
No, that’s lame
No, it’s stupid
And turns into:
No = frustration
No = no where
No = no song
You feel stuck and annoyed, like you’re going nowhere fast…
It’s Your Inner Editor…
The little voice in your head that tells you right from wrong.
Wait, no the other voice that tells you write from don’t write.
Your inner editor judges your songwriting ideas, it sounds like:
- “Is this the best way to say it?”
- “Is the melody interesting?”
- “Does this chord progression sound cool?”
- “Is this the riff, or should I keep working on it?”
You need your inner editor to help guide your songwriting decisions.
Don’t let your inner editor bite you!
Inner Editor Interference
Editing is important. It’s how you take a good idea and improve it, how you take a good song and make it a great song.
Editing becomes a problem when it becomes overactive. You can suffer a Songwriting Slow Down where your songwriting grinds to a halt.
My worst case of it lasted for a month. I couldn’t write anything… I’d negatively criticise an idea before I’d finished writing it down. I went from crossing out ideas as fast as I wrote them, to stopping myself in mid-thought, to staring at a blank page….
I solved this when I realized writing and editing are two different phases of songwriting (learn about all Five phases of songwriting).
The easiest solution is to brainstorm first (write songwriting ideas without judgement) and then edit later.
Why Your Inner Editor Is Overreacting
There are a few reasons why your inner editor is overactive, including:
- You’re editing too soon in your songwriting process
- Fear of writing bad songs, and
- Fear of negative criticism
The best solution is to brainstorm songwriting ideas and then edit them later. You spill your thoughts on paper and then edit and manipulate them into lines of lyrics.
If you’re second guessing yourself because you’re thinking about how listeners will react to your songs (this is actually fear disguised as self-criticism) try writing a bad song on purpose. It’s actually fun to see how fast you can write a crappy song… here’s a short song I wrote in 7 1/2 minutes.
Fear Increases Because No’s Are Sticky
If you get seven compliments and one criticism….
Which one do you think about and worry over?
Do you sit still and replay the compliments over and over?
Unfortunately, it’s the negative comment that sticks in your head. It could be an offhand comment from a friend or a random troll but it’s hits you and swirls around, damaging your psyche!
Your Inner Editor is “critically” important… but only while you’re editing!
Otherwise you’re interrupting the writing flow, when ideas are flying, images are captured in words, and emotions erupt from you so you channel them into your writing.
Your editor becomes dangerous while you’re songwriting, especially brainstorming and generating ideas, because it’s too busy talking while you’re trying to create!
Handling Your Inner Editor: Action Steps
Write, Play, Edit, Play, Repeat
Separate writing from editing, don’t write and edit at the same time.
Decide out loud whether you are writing or editing.
You Can Rewrite
You’re allowed (and should!) change anything if it improves your song. While you’re writing don’t get stuck on a word or lyric line with a long slow down until the editing phase. Use nonsense syllables or dashes to hold place in the song and write past a trouble spot.
Separate Yourself From Your Song
You write songs, you aren’t the song. Your song is a reflection of where you are as a songwriter and a person at this point in time. You’ll write many more songs. Your song is an instant in time… it’s not you. If your song isn’t as great as you want it to be, you can edit and change it later.
Take a break, go for a walk, talk to people… do something different!
Notice Your “No Statements”
Pay attention to your self-talk, in your head, what you say outloud and what people say around you. Try to phrase negative statements as positive statements… turn “no’s” into “yeses”:
This lyric is lame = This lyric can be improved
When you hear no, the next step is to ask “why?” incessantly. Think like a toddler trying to understand why the sky is blue and where babies come from!
Ask yourself “why” but know the obvious first answer isn’t always the best answer… ask yourself why
Asking “why is this lyric weak?” leads to solutions
Finish the Song
Put it away for a week before deciding if you should:
- File it,
- Rewrite it, or
- Demo the song