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I’ve discovered that there are a lot of artists out there who aren’t writing their own songs. When I ask them if they write or why they don’t write they usually shrug their shoulders and say something like “I don’t know how.”

Oh my friends….I’m going to tell you a secret….No songwriter knew what they were doing when they started! They just started writing stuff! I was one of those singers who didn’t write because I didn’t know how. Then one day I thought, “I want to write songs.” And so I did. Y’all….my first song I completed from start to finish over ten years ago now, was TERRIBLE. It was 7 minutes long (not kidding) and had 4 or 5 verses. I’m not sure what I was thinking, or why my sweet church actually ASKED me to play it in church one Sunday. But hey, it got the ball rolling. I’ll never play it in public again so help me God, but you know what? I would’ve never written any great songs unless I had first gotten that out of my system.

Starting the process of songwriting can be a daunting task. So make it simple. Open up a journal and start writing what is in your head. That’s where it begins. It’s much like a faucet that hasn’t run water in years would first pump out gross rusty water before it began running clear. Our minds need to run the rusty water out before better, clearer thoughts start flowing out of us. If you never let the rusty water flow, you’ll never get to the good stuff!

I’ve put together a list of do’s and don’ts of songwriting to help get you started. This is by no means an exhaustive list but more so something to help move the ball down the court. Stay tuned for Part 2 to get all the “do’s”….here are a few “don’ts.”

DON”T: Edit in your mind. It will kill your creative flow! We must instead kill the “inner editor” meaning, the voice that won’t let you write a thing down because it doesn’t sound good enough in your mind. Be ok with having multiple drafts to edit later. To help this, start writing “Morning Pages.” This was a great songwriting tip from a friend of mine who challenged me to keep my journal by my bed and as soon as I woke up, grab the journal and start letting my stream of consciousness flow. Do not get up first to go to the bathroom or get dressed. Be half asleep, it’s half the fun! Sometimes your dreams you later forget sneak into your morning pages and you find something brilliant!

DON”T: Settle for just a good hook. Let your verses be powerful and poignant as well. I LOVE LYRICS. A pet peeve of mine is songs with great choruses and lousy verses. For example, I have a song that I wrote a great hook for several years ago that I still haven’t finished mainly because I don’t love any of my verses that I’ve come up with so far. They aren’t good enough and I won’t settle.

Ok, my “do’s” are much longer so come back to read those!
Happy writing!

Shelby Rollins

Author Shelby Rollins

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