One Thing a Day for My Songwriting Journey
by Doak Turner
If I told you that you could do 300+ things for your songwriting journey between today and this time next year – would you think that I am crazy or what?
As a songwriter who lived outside of Nashville until moving in October 2002, I would follow a plan that really helped me stay focused and stay on my songwriting journey. I made trips to Nashville for (6) years before moving to town. I called it simply, "Do One Thing a Day for my songwriting." Those "things" have enabled me to develop a great network in Nashville of friends and industry professionals, to be prepared when I moved to Nashville with the craft and business of songwriting, to write better songs on my songwriting journey, and to really keep my songwriting goals focused over the years prior to moving to Nashville.
One thing a day includes making a phone call or e-mail to a songwriter to set up a co-write session, or an industry professional to ask a songwriting business question, or someone in the local songwriting workshop to discuss an upcoming event. Or, I might make plans for my next trip to Nashville, plans for an upcoming workshop meeting and guest speakers for the local events. I would also contact the media for those local songwriting events. Sometimes I would talk to a couple of out-of-town or out-of-state friends who are on the songwriting journey to share ideas, goals, challenges and successes. Sometimes a call would be needed to say hello to someone whom I haven't spoken to for a while, who always encouraged me in life, and to share what was going on in my life, even thought that friend was not a songwriter. They are (and still continue to be) great, positive friends who believe in me.
Other kinds of one thing a day include opening my hook-book to write a hook that I had just found reading a book, a conversation overheard during the day. My hook-book contains “Hooks” – thoughts and ideas for songs that I use when writing and co-writing songs. Or, I might find a hook from watching a movie or TV, from the preacher's sermon, a newspaper, or magazine. Sometimes, the hook "came to me from the sky," or wherever those hooks come from, and seem to find our songwriter's antenna, move into our head, and then down our arm onto the paper. I also open the hook book to review ideas I've written in it, to see if I could write another verse or chorus to something I had started previously, and maybe even complete a song in my hook book. Looking at music sites on line can be very helpful by finding ideas from artists and songwriters, learning and networking on-line with myspacemusic and other sites from organizations and songwriters.
I might play the guitar or keyboard - even for a couple minutes a day - which is another excellent thing to do that may inspire an idea. I would learn another melody that can lead to a song, learn a new chord or strumming pattern, or work to improve a song that I've written. If I have more than a couple minutes, then I play the instrument and visualize myself playing my songs to an audience, a concert hall, one of our local venues, or playing live in the venue if that is my ultimate goal. Keeping the guitar on a stand instead of in the guitar case makes it much easier to play! So have them in as many rooms of your house as possible – you may pick one up for a couple minutes and strum a melody that you haven’t thought of yet – starting another song!
One thing a day also includes reading just a chapter - or even one or two pages - of a songwriting book a day to increase my songwriting skills. Hey, folks - we all know what our favorite room to read is - so go ahead and have a songwriting book in there at all times! If I read a little before going to bed, I often make it a songwriting or industry publication for my bedtime stories. I read the "how to" songwriting books, biographies about people in the songwriting or music industry, or any book or industry magazine that enables me to learn one thing per day. American Songwriter Magazine, Music Row and Performing Songwriter are a couple magazines to have around the house. It's is a great investment for my songwriting journey. I highly recommend every songwriter reading “The Craft and Business of Songwriting – Third Edition” by John Braheny. If you read just (2) pages a day – you will learn something new every day about songwriting! The book by Douglas Waterman “Song – the world’s best songwriters on creating the music that moves us” is another great book to have at your desk or nightstand – somewhere easy to pick up and read – maybe just ONE interview a day with a great songwriter will make a difference on your journey!
Some other things that I did while still in Charlotte, NC and you can too is to attend and get involved in the local songwriting community. I was the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) coordinator in Charlotte from 1996 - 2002. I was fortunate to have two great co-coordinators for the last year in Charlotte, as I had my condo on the market and was making plans to move to Nashville. I know from personal experience that it's great when songwriters ask what they can do to get involved with the local songwriter workshop.
I highly recommend networking in your local community by attending the music events and singer/songwriter nights. This is an excellent place to meet new co-writers and friends that have the same interests as you and inspire new songs.
One thing a day should include time to review your goals. I wrote my goals down and placed them where I could see them every day. I still do this. That way, I can pause for a minute, look and make sure I have done one thing that day for my songwriting journey. Visualize your goals happening with your songwriting. But, the most important thing for you to do each day is - Have Fun on Your Songwriting Journey!
Doak Turner is a songwriter in Nashville, TN. He has songs on independent CD projects, former 6-year local coordinator in the NSAI Charlotte workshop, produced several successful songwriting events, a writer for www.musicdish.com in the “Song Works¨ section of the site, and editor and publisher of The Nashville Muse.
Creating in a Group – The Collaborating Game
Here’s a fun way to get your creative juices flowing. Get two or three, or more people in a room to play the collaboration game. The rules are simple:
1. NO NOES!
You can point to your nose and shake your head to emphasize this rule! This means anything goes! Ignore all your self-imposed limitations and barriers. Utterances such as “I can’t sing,” “That won’t work,” “I’m not good at lyrics,” “That’s stupid,” and all the variations on that theme are NOT ALLOWED. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to eliminate the negative if everyone agrees to this rule.
2. NO EVALUATIONS
If you judge your ideas before you express them or simultaneously with expressing them, you stop the flow of your ideas. When working in a group, each person has the responsibility to say WHATEVER IDEAS ARE TRIGGERED IN THE PROCESS. If you think to yourself, (trying to avoid Rule 1 by not saying it out loud) “That’s stupid,” and stop yourself from saying it, you have eliminated the stimulus that might have inspired the next person’s thought. Our rule of thumb is, if you really think it’s stupid, you are OBLIGATED to say it out loud. In the early stages of creating, all ideas are good ideas! The time for judging them comes much later in the process. Leave your judge outside the door for now.
3. STAY POSITIVE
No noes means all yeses! Every idea can be greeted with a “yes.” Every idea will inspire new ideas in other members of the group. Here are some positive phrases that can be used to build on ideas:
Yes, and…. Suppose…. Another idea….
Or…. Also…. How about….
What if…. And…. Let’s….
These phrases are indispensable tools for expressing respect for all the ideas that flow in a collaboration.
4. HAVE FUN!
Be silly. Make jokes. Say the wildest thing you can think of. Laugh! Aren’t we lucky to be writing songs?
Let’s play the collaboration game:
You can use any photo as the stimulus for the game. For example, use a photograph of two people kissing.
There’s one at http://www.masters-of-photography.com/D/doisneau/doisneau_kiss.html Double-click the photo and it will be large enough to fill one page, which you can print out. Each person in the room takes a turn saying a sentence or two about the story of the picture.
The idea is to say anything that comes to mind very quickly and then pass the picture to the next person. Keep going round and round until you really feel you’ve dug that kissing well as deep as you can! Here are a couple of examples:
- She just told him she’s pregnant.
- Their braces are stuck together and they’re going to an orthodontist to get unstuck.
- He doesn’t know her at all. He’s kissing her to distract her while he picks her pocket.
There is no end to the ideas that you can come up with. What did s/he he say just before this photo was taken? What are the fellow behind them and the woman next to them thinking? What’s going to happen next? These are the questions you will be asking about the people in your songs, so you are practicing the art of characterization.
This game of getting the creative flow going without boundaries can be played with any photograph or curious item. You will have to remind yourself to return to the fun, open attitude of this game whenever you feel yourself getting bogged down creatively.
Collaboration business tip: We think it’s best if everyone agrees up front that the song will be shared equally by all the writers who are participating in the collaboration. Mathematics can kill a collaboration. That’s why they call it division!
Pat & Pete Luboff have recordings by Snoop Dogg ("Trust Me," the first single from the platinum-selling album "Top Dogg") Patti LaBelle (gold album and the title song for "Body Language: the Musical"), Bobby Womack (No. 2 on Billboard's Black Music chart), "Hometown, USA" from the John Travolta movie "Experts," on Michael Peterson's new CD, recently charting Miko Marks, and more. They've been teaching songwriting workshops together since 1979. The Luboffs are the authors of the Writer's Digest new book "101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them" and "12 Steps to Building Better Songs," which they self-publish. For more information, visit http://www.writesongs.com