Things Every Songwriter Should Know
  ...from the Pros Who've Done it.

5 Ways to Connect to Inspiration When Writing a Song

Written by Barry DeVorzon – Follow us on Twitter

Without inspiration, a great song is not possible. The muse is an elusive source of inspiration and she is not always accessible. The truth is, she talks to us when she wants to talk to us.  All we can do is put ourselves in the best position possible to tap into that inspiration when the opportunity presents itself. Here are 5 simple ways that will help you get connected.

1. Find an ideal place to create.

You need a place that is yours and yours only, one that is totally free of distractions. This can be a room at home or a writing room at your publisher’s. Any place is good as long as it’s a place where you will not be disturbed. Remember, when things aren’t going well, a telephone call, your kid, or anything for that matter can be a welcome distraction.

You have to learn to tough it out even if that day of writing doesn’t give you anything. Some days will deliver everything you could ask for and others will just turn out to be practice. Have the discipline to stick it out regardless of the outcome.

2. Clear the deck of any tasks, errands or responsibilities.

Do whatever has to be done of an immediate nature and let everything else wait. Now it’s time to close the door, turn off the phones, and make sure nothing will disturb you. This means no wives, no husbands, no kids, no calls. You know what distracts you, so be honest with yourself and don’t let it get in the way. Give your mind the focused time it needs to let creativity flow.

3. Do things that trigger your creative side.

Sit down and think of what you want to write. If nothing comes to mind and you play an instrument, now is the time to sit at the piano or pick up the guitar. You can play songs you’ve written, other people’s songs, or just go through a sequence of chords. While you’re doing this, open yourself to any melodies or lyrical ideas that might come to you. Sometimes working with another writer will also trigger inspiration. Whatever it takes to get you going, do it.

4. Inspiration comes when it wants to come – You have to be patient.

It’s very possible you may sit there for hours without getting anything of note. Other times, it can come quickly. Inspiration is a gift, and that is why it is not something you can turn on or off at will. The best way to access this gift is to stay open, relax, don’t let yourself be distracted, and whatever you do, don’t try too hard. It’s very possible that you may waste a day and come up empty-handed; don’t let that scare you.

5. Once you’ve tapped into inspiration, go with the flow.

Acknowledge the fact that words, chords, and melodies may be temporary, and may change during the creative process. Go with the flow, this is not the time to be a perfectionist, don’t try to arrive at the best word, chord, or melody. As you live with the song, it will change on its own. It’s important that you not allow yourself to get stuck on a rhyme, a way to express yourself, or a chord that is not quite what you want. There will be time for that later when craft and dedication to your art come into play. If you spend too much time trying to get something perfect, you may lose your connection.

Consistent Writing Habits Lead to Great Songs

If a songwriter maintains this discipline in his/her writing habits, they will write inspired songs, which are the only ones that count. When inspiration fades, it’s time to take an objective look at the song you’ve created and decide whether it’s just good or truly great. This brings up a new set of rules that we look forward to covering in the weeks to come. Don’t miss it because this phase is just as important as the inspirational phase of songwriting.

What’s been your best method of connecting to inspiration? How and in what circumstances do you write most effectively? Please share in the comments below. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

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You also might enjoy this recent video: How I Got My Very First Hit

82 Responses to “5 Ways to Connect to Inspiration When Writing a Song”

  1. Jeremy Woodall says:

    Really enjoyed reading this, thank you!

    You list several great aspects of the method of writing… turning now to implement them and write!!

    JW

    • Iris E Foss says:

      That’s the way to go JW. Proverbs 11:4 “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.”

      I find myself being mostly inspired when I or someone else is at the peak of something. I work best under pressure.

    • admin says:

      Good luck.

      Barry

  2. Nancy Ruybal says:

    This is great help and encouragement! I very much enjoyed your first entries and will be back for more! Connecting to inspiration comes in surprising ways and at surprising times for me. When the world gets too noisy and busy for me to get thoughts out of my head and on paper, I will almost inevitably seek out a Zane Grey novel, even one I have read a dozen times. His ability to paint pictures in my mind, his way of building and transforming his characters through their experience in the story and just his use of the vernacular of the day all bring words and ideas forward from the buried treasure I know is waiting to be uncovered.
    The circumstances where I write most effectively is when a I can see and create the entire story behind the song. Typically I will write the whole story out, even if only in outline form, and pare it down to a song. This way, as a folk song writer, I am sure to include the whole story as well as all the color, emotion and flow the songs needs to be a success with an audience.

    • Steve Cass says:

      Hi Nancy!

      I like how you utilize Zane Grey novels to kick start the word pictures of the mind. I love reading for that same reason and can relate.

      Great inspiration is often a fleeting thing for me, but I find a good key for my style is to begin fleshing out the central theme of the song in the cadence I think it should be said and then create the form around that. It seems to work well when I’m comfortable with the theme and and able to express the idea in conversational form, which seems to allow flow for the supporting lines.

      But I also often do like you and will just brainstorm out a page or two of what the theme is and then pull the ideas and emotions out from there.

      Take care,

      Steve

    • admin says:

      Thanks for sharing, word pictures is what it’s all about whether you’re writing a book or a song.

      Barry

  3. Paul says:

    I’ve been doing exactly what this article talks about since I started writing songs. In the beginning, before I wrote my first song, I spent many hours almost every day for several months working at it and finally inspiration hit! Once I wrote my first song, I kept up the discipline and songs started coming within days or weeks instead of months.

    My biggest advice to get inspired would be to get engrossed in an experience, an idea or philosophy through contemplation, reading books on the subject, etc. Sitting around watching tv and eating Cheetos probably won’t help much.

  4. Aaron Logan says:

    Awesome blog! I definitely relate to all of it. I’ve found that I cannot write with people around. I’m too easily distracted. I need complete quiet. I often have to leave my phone in another room. I’m also a perfectionist, so it’s hard for me to not analyze what I’m writing…but that completely kills the flow, so I’m learning how to let it go and save it for the producing process.

    I also may write several versions of a verse or chorus before one really sticks. As long as the creativity is flowing, I just keep going until I know I have the right one. That seems to be a much better alternative for me than stopping to analyze the first one I write. And if I hit a block, I pace the room or go for a walk outside. If I keep going over melodies in my head, something will come.

  5. Thanks for the tips! You have a great program (tool) to help songwriters in MasterWriter. I find that the best quiet times for me come around 4 in the morning or anytime I am driving. (My mind must think like a juke box while I’m driving.) But one of the best ideas is to keep a small recorder to catch lyric/melody creativeness while it is flowing. Even if you don’t have any other instrument than your voice, sing it into your recorder and freeze that idea before it fades.

    • admin says:

      Having a little recorder to catch those moments is a great idea, inspiration comes when it wants to, and when it goes, it’s sometimes hard to remember. Thanks for the compliment on MasterWriter.

      Barry

  6. Lars says:

    Can I add my own words in my Masterwriter app? If not, WHEN are you going to implement that possibility?

  7. Mark Lord says:

    Great to have a forum to share good ideas – thanks Barry.

    What transformed my lyric writing was when I realised just how powerful the subconscious mind is. I’m sure we’ve all got to that point where maybe we have the 1st verse and most of the chorus with some other bit and pieces – but simply can nail the second verse or the middle 8. I used to sit in the room staring at the lyric sheet trying to be “dedicated” and not leave until it was finished. Now I do the opposite – I calmly read through the lyrics I have committing then to mind (no need to actually be able to remember them all), then I walk away and go and do something else – completely unconnected with song writing. I come back a couple or hours later and guess what? 9 times out of 10 I can simply sit down and fill in all the blanks! The first time it happened I was truly amazed and assumed I had ‘just got lucky’, but now I do it all the time. If I still don’t have every last word I just repeat the process, maybe sleeping on it. It’s amazing what your subconscious is up to while you’re not looking.

    Look forward reading the next instalments.

    • Chris says:

      These are good points Mark. When we become obsessed or try to own a piece, the end result often sounds contrived and forced. That’s the danger zone and like you say, it’s best to disconnect and walk away. Creativity is still a mystery, it will always be an adventure and you gotta love that!

    • Deb says:

      Amen! I cook. Soup or spaghetti sauce–something that doesn’t have a recipe. And I keep a notebook in the kitchen. I’m amazed at the stuff that comes to me when I do this, even immediately following a totally aggravating writing session where I felt dry as a bone!

    • admin says:

      I think your technique of walking away from a song when you’re not making progress is a good one. When we’re frustrated we tend to try to hard. Letting the subconscious help us find the answer makes sense. Thanks for sharing the tip.

      Barry

  8. John M. says:

    I can sure relate to the “got a first verse, part of a chorus, and bits and pieces.” After that nothing. Part of that for me is simply some kind of fatigue that sets into the part of the brain that comes up with a song. Starting fresh each day, trying it over and over, with repetition of what I have already down, kicks out just a little more, until after a few weeks I have a somewhat complete song. I say somewhat because it usually evolves over time again. There is a word or a phrase that you know isnt quite right, then it hits you. I have songs that I’ve changed after a year of singing them.

    • admin says:

      It’s never too late to make a song better.

      Barry

      • I have returned to songs weeks (sometimes, even years) after I thought they were “finished”, only to tweak some words or, as in the case of years, add a bridge!

        • admin says:

          No one can ever fault you for trying to make something better, that’s how great songs are born.

          Barry

          • DEEP says:

            Sometimes certain subjects you want to write about need to be lived, because of the lack off experience..

          • admin says:

            You’re absolutely right, but in some cases, you can put yourself in that position and express how you would feel in that situation.

            Best,

            Barry

  9. Iris E Foss says:

    Years ago I wrote a song and one of the band members at my church asked if he could sing it with his band but in a different version. In my mind I couldn’t picture it any other way but I said yes. After the performance my version vanished. Never again did it play in my head as I first wrote it. They made miracles with my little song. So yeah, insights are awesome.

    • Steve Cass says:

      Yes, I think it’s great to be open to different arrangements. I once wrote and recorded a very ‘hauntingly beautiful’ piece of guitar music to a simple AABB verse set. Another artist friend wanted to record it, but she wanted to do it in a different key. The arrangement was essentially the same, but somehow with the change of key it was a slightly different song. I guess that’s probably just my mind dissecting the guitar part. Anyway, I think it can be really eye-opening to hear another’s interpretation of our work. That probably is a good way to to begin down the path of learning to write songs that suit particular artists.

  10. Lauren Dayton says:

    Thanks for this blog, Barry! It and MasterWriter are such gifts!! I find that inspiration is all around me. The issue is whether or not I PAY ATTENTION to it. Those constant hints are flodded by my whirring, distracted mind. When I take the time to quiet myself, it comes.

  11. Lauren Dayton says:

    Thanks for this blog, Barry. It and MasterWriter are such gifts! I find that inspiration is all around me. The issue is whether or not I PAY ATTENTION to it. Those constant hints are flodded by my whirring, distracted mind. When I take the time to quiet myself, it comes.

  12. George Haughton says:

    Between MasterWriter and Barry’s advice, you couldn’t get a better songwriter’s education.

    George

  13. Tom Miles says:

    First of all, thank you so much for developing Masterwriter. It has really helped my ability to find the right words to express what I am so desperately trying to convey. This blog is going to be an excellent resource for those that want to take advantage of it.
    Back in the 70′s and 80′s I subscribed to Songwriter Magazine and looked forward to getting my issue every month. This blog, I believe is going to be killer, much like the aforementioned magazine.
    Let me make my point… Without a doubt, MOTION equals inspiration for me. Whether I am walking on the treadmill, driving down the road, or oftentimes while showering. The movement of the water will trigger something in me. When this happens, I never expect to remember anything so I ALWAYS have a voice recorder with me. I have actually turned the water off in the shower, grabbed my recorder and let the juices flow! Sometimes while driving I’ll turn the recorder on and just let it go. By collecting my thoughts and ideas on tape I find that when I sit down in the studio I never have a lack of ideas. Also, when I am actually writing, if I get stuck I simply put it down and move on to another idea. I’ve found that putting it down is about the best thing I can do.
    I’m looking forward to reading more on the blog. Barry, you are a true pioneer and I, for one, truly appreciate you.
    Onward And Upward,
    Tom Miles

    • admin says:

      Everyone has their own way of getting connected and yours sounds pretty good to me. I’m glad to hear MasterWriter helps and thank you for the kind words.

      Barry

  14. Steve Chin says:

    Barry,

    Thanks for this wonderfull blog I find your posts very inspiring.

    I find I get inspiration best in my car stuck in traffic. I normally travel with a voice record and I would record my lyrics as they come to my thoughtS, I would also record melodies even if just humming them.

    Steve

  15. Lisa says:

    I have a lush tree covered wooden deck with lots of birds tweeting plush couches it’s just vibey. Myself and my co-writing friends call it “The Office”. It is our favorite place to write and be inspired.
    Our recording device’s always have the birds in the background singing along…

  16. rg says:

    please tell me more about the muse, who is she and how do i connect with her!! Barry you are the first person to give so much TRUE information thank you very much.

  17. [...] 5 Ways to Connect to Inspiration – click here How do you Know When you’ve Written a Great Song? – click here The story of how I got [...]

  18. Very interesting. I teach THE ARTIST WAY WORKSHOP and I can really relate with so many things in this article. My daughter Alice Ripley (2009 Tony award winning actress) bought the book the artist way for me for Christmas several years ago and now when I teach I honestly think I get more out of the class than my students.
    I have now written the stage play for my book JOLLY THE ELF with hopes of being ready for a opening next year in Dayton Ohio. My problem is the theme song, I’m totally stuck. I’m ready to through myself against a brick wall. Helppppp!
    Regards and tremendous admiration,
    Jo Ripley

  19. Harry Rabin says:

    Never knew you and Michael Towers created this software and that all our local celebs use it like Andy & Bob. I guess I’ll give it a try Barry for our next feature film. Go Santa Barbarians!

  20. Dear Mr DeVorzon the above website is still in the planning stages.I would love to have people bring me their idea for a song and I would then try to expand their idea into a lyrical story in song.I do not play any instruments but love music,it is the language of every emotion know in this world. I have written about seven songs up until now but seem to have lost my drive for writing because it is difficult in my small town to find someone to put music to my lyrics.I was wondering if you could critique my lyrics for my song Our Soldiers Arms any feedback would be greatly appreciated. This is a tremendous site which will quite helpful to me.Please reply so I may be able to send you this song.PS I sent this to empire music and paramount song both offered contracts but I was not sure how to approach their offer,seeing that their is so much dishonesty on the Internet. This would be a dream come true if you could offer to look at this for me. With Thanks. Wally Henderson

    • admin says:

      Our policy is not to accept songs or lyrics here at MasterWriter, it’s not what we do and it has legal implications. I hope you understand and I wish you the best.

      Barry

  21. [...] 5 Ways to Connect to Inspiration – click here How do you Know When you’ve Written a Great Song? – click here The story of how I got [...]

  22. Michael says:

    Great insight for all writers!!!!!!!!

  23. Fantastic post.Never knew this, thanks for letting me know.

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  25. Tatyana says:

    Hi! I am fairly new on this blog and loving it!!!
    I don’t have one specific place where I write. I write all the time and almost everywhere. If I have a thought in the middle of the night, I get up and write it down too. :) Thank you so much for the tips and for creating MasterWriter!

  26. tim says:

    i find that when im driving or in some king of moving,motion things come to me.also music,i will come up with a replacment verse or wording that i feel would make the lyrical content more impactfull or powerfull.i have to keep a recorder by,i never now when these things come to me,and trying to say to youself ill remember it later or put it in your memrie back ont work.it leads to frusterating results knowing it was a good line to write around or add to a prior writing.fantazing is great if you can put it to words.i try to make my material to take the listener on a emotional journy or an escape to the world in the mind.this is truly a goal i am tying to master and improve on.that will stimulate minds to create there own place were they can unlimite the possibilities.

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  32. My inspiration come from deep feelings of love, loss, God, and the need to tell a story to make people think ,feel and maybe ,learn from these story’s and experiences. It can come from a single idea shared in a conversation,or feelings about something important or someones expression in passing. And sometimes little airplanes from heaven come rushing at me and I just about can’t write fast enough. These times the song comes with a melody and lyrics and can be a complete song in less than 10 minutes.

    Thank you for this program and connection with others.
    Cindy Gilmoe

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