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Songwriting Prompts: Help Yourself Write Better And Faster
The phenomenon of songwriting has been called many things: a miracle, a muscle, a mystery, a calling, a challenge, and even a science. While honing your command of the craft is a lifelong pursuit, there are some exercises that can advance you down the path toward being as ready as possible when inspirations strikes.
One tack toward improvement is the use of songwriting prompts, as Nashville, Tenn.-based songwriter Sarah Spencer points out in her recent SongFancy blog post. The process involves taking a topic, concept or phrase and building a song around it. Many songwriters rely on this approach to force themselves out of a creative rut, try something new or even (gulp) write for fun.
Contrived as it may seem to contaminate pure inspiration with a forced prompt, Spencer points out the many benefits of the process, focusing on the departure it provides from your rote habits and patterns.
"When you've been writing for a while, you'll find yourself using some of the same old words or techniques over and over again," Spencer says. "You'll have a collection of go-to metaphors, phrases you use when it's convenient, etc. … When you write from a songwriting prompt, it encourages new ways of thinking and gets you out of old habits and overused material."
Additionally, songwriting prompts can help you write quicker and be more prepared for the dynamic and often demanding situation of co-writing. By providing some distance between the writer and the material, creative decisions can — and often have to — be made using a cool combination of gut, poise and wit.
Joining a songwriting group that meets regularly with new prompts each time can springboard your creative output, build your confidence and even surprise yourself. Spencer even hosts a "5 in 5 Song Challenge," giving songwriters everywhere a chance to jump into the world of songwriting prompts head first.
In a perfect world, songwriters can allow the natural forces and instincts that visit them to shape their creative output, as this is where much of the magic truly comes from for the greatest artists of our time. But for the working songwriter focused on building their command of the craft and broadening their arsenal of techniques, the effort of writing to prompts can pay back in spades.