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A Strong Work Ethic Provides the Best Inspiration for Songwriters

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When we talk about inspiration, we immediately think of the kind that comes from seeing waterfalls or gorgeous butterflies, or the inspiration that has as its source the emotions that come from considering the birth of a child or some other exciting life event. We get a feeling that makes us feel warm and excited, and we respond by wanting to put those emotions into music.

That’s a normal reaction for most humans. We become creative when we become excited, and it happens for us in a way that doesn’t happen for other species on this planet.

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But that kind of “externally-sourced” inspiration is only one way to get creatively excited, and I would argue not a very useful way. Not useful, because as you know, the excitement we feel from those kinds of events or situations is usually short-lived. After a day or two, it can be hard to generate excitement that would help you carry on with the songwriting process.

There is a better source of inspiration, and it comes from a strong work ethic. It may not seem to you that working hard could possibly generate creative excitement, but it can, and it does.

And it’s better than externally-sourced inspiration because it is the kind that regenerates with every small success you make. As you write, the excitement you feel from having something work well — even just some small fragment of melody, or a catchy line of lyric — inspires you to keep working.

Here are 5 tips that can help you balance externally-sourced inspiration with a strong work ethic:

  1. Don’t wait to be inspired to write. If you wait for inspiration, you’re wasting a lot of time. If the classical greats like Mozart and Beethoven, who wrote symphonies and operas, waited to be inspired, they’d have never gotten anything finished.
  2. See if a songwriting schedule will help you find the discipline you need. Most people who suffer regularly from writer’s block treat songwriting as if it’s something to do on the spur of the moment, with little pre-thought. A schedule will help by allowing you to get into a creative mood more easily.
  3. Work on your playing skills even while working hard on songwriting. You can become inspired by playing because your fingers will find short musical fragments that might work their way into your songs.
  4. When songs don’t seem to be happening, work on small ideas. If you find the notion of writing a full song just isn’t happening for you today, spend your time working on smaller ideas. Find a 3- or 4-chord progression you like, make a list of lines of lyric that you find catchy, even if you don’t know how they might work their way into a song. These little activities can keep you feeling successful.
  5. Get out and see the world — become curious! The more you experience in life, the more you’ll find those exciting moments that can give you short moments of inspiration. Though it’s not the kind to sustain you through a long songwriting process, it’s certainly helpful on days when even small successes are hard to find.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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