Everyone needs to learn something new in order to grow – especially in a craft like songwriting. There was a Nike shirt I had once that said “There is no finish line” – at least as far as it applies to art, I couldn’t agree more. Maybe you can go back and revisit fundamentals. Maybe you’ll learn some new technique or way of writing that shakes things up for you in an interesting way. Bach – by all accounts a musical genius – petitioned for a sabbatical from his job as a church organist in order to learn extended techniques from a master in another city. He returned months later – long after the sabbatical had ended, and applied his new found techniques to the amazement of the congregation (what can I say? Musicians have always been notoriously flaky).
Here’s just a couple books that rocked my world – and, I suspect, will rock yours as well.
I’m a big reader, and this author – in my opinion – is a modern master. In his book, he talks about the techniques and ingredients to get a great story down on paper. You might be perplexed to see that I’ve included this in a songwriting blog, but think about it for a minute. Songs are stories – just much, much shorter. I’ve heard them described as 3 minute movies. Not surprisingly, a lot of the same techniques that make a great story also make a great song. Like Stephen King says in the book: If you put a gun on the mantle in the first act, it better go off in the second act.
I’m not gonna lie, this guy kicked my ass. I was in a pretty stagnant place with my writing – I was lazy, not feeling creative, and frankly a bit depressed about the whole creative process. Sometimes you need some tough love, though, and this guy gives it in healthy doses. Like a boxing instructor who reminds you of your footwork, or yells at you to keep your guard up, this author was in my head every day (and still is!) reminding me to get out there and do my best, regardless of how I feel. This book showed me that “writer’s block” can be beaten, and that “not feeling creative” is just an excuse keeping you from writing great stuff.
Sometimes what you need isn’t tough love – it’s just love. This book came to me at a time when my inner artist needed a hug rather than a kick in the pants. Julie has some wonderful things to say about nurturing your inner artist and cultivating your creativity. She also has some very helpful exercises (some of which I still do today). She suggests taking yourself on an “artist date” – watching a great play, or going to a museum. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is an excellent way to fill yourself back up in the creative sense. This book may not be for you if you’re not into self discovery or touchy feely things, but it worked great for me.
What are some books that helped you with your songwriting? Sound off in the comments!