Many students taking the online lyric writing courses here at Berklee Online find the workload refreshing. Daily writing assignments push students to write nearly every day. But that kind of schedule can feel challenging, even as we see the fruits of our labor in better and better lyrics. Free-form sense-bound writing and more analytical approaches to structuring lyric sections appeal to both the unstructured, organic writer, and the more structured, intellectual writer. But whether we enjoy abstract, metaphorical lyric, or the more literal and concrete storytelling, we can become better writers by identifying what process we prefer and choosing when and when not to adhere to that process.

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Something I’ve learned over the course of my writing career has come from these two somewhat opposing processes to writing – that involving my analytical brain during the creative brain-storming stalls my writing and clouds my judgment. 

When I’m brainstorming, I’m giving myself the freedom to write whatever comes to mind. My internal judge and critic is nowhere to be found at this stage. Ideas are neither good nor bad. They are simply words on a page that reflect as authentically as possible my most honest feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.

After the brainstorming stage, I look back over what I’ve written and focus on ‘feeling’ the gems within the writing. A phrase may pop out as good for a first line, or really capturing the heart of the message as a chorus. I go with my gut here, trusting that first impulse. The more I let my analytical brain in on this part of the process, the more doubtful I become.

After I get the first few lines of the verse down on paper, I look at any rhyme scheme that may be emerging, and the rhythmic motif that is also establishing itself. I typically write in 4-line or 6-line verses to start, and stay flexible as I move toward the piano or guitar to set the lyric to music. Guessing the structure of the section, I now involve my thinking brain as I search for rhymes and match rhythmic patterns so that the melodic phrasing can fall into place without too much hardship later on.

Knowing when to involve my thinking brain, or ‘the judge,’ in the process of writing allows me to write faster, and write more confidently. When that judge gets involved too soon, I lose confidence, and I stop letting the song lead or ‘speak.’

Writing faster means more songs move through my brain. More songs means I am less codependent with any single song. I’m much more likely to see my songs objectively, instead of relying on them to provide a sense of accomplishment or value. Furthermore, writing faster means I experience more situations in which to improve. I also feel I can discard ideas that aren’t developing the way I’d like.

Quality takes time and attention to detail. But quality doesn’t require we move through the process so painfully slow that writing loses its sparkle. Get back the fun, and give your internal editor the month off. Heck, give it the year off. I bet you never knew how many song ideas you had.

Happy writing,
Andrea

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