When ideas start to run dry every songwriter knows the importance of their own hideaway to encourage inspiration. These spaces can be anywhere, though of course different places will encourage different thoughts.
The key for many songwriters is to vary up where they write, so that their songs can take on new dimensions and fresh turns. Others have their one writing space where they feel comfortable and ideas flow.
Whatever your approach consider incorporating some of these locales into your writing regimen. Who knows, they might just give you the inspiration you’ve been searching for.
The Garage: It may be a rock cliché but if you have a garage in your house it can be the perfect private area for you to write your songs, listen to music or have jam sessions with other musicians. The important thing is that this is a personal space where you can work on your songs without waking the neighbors. Or as Rivers Cuomo succinctly put it on Weezer’s ode to this hermitage of teenage rock bands “In The Garage”, “In the garage where I belong/No one hears me sing this song.” Not all of us are lucky to have a garage out back so whether it’s a study, the basement or just your bedroom try stake a claim to some area of your apartment or house which is just for your song writing.
Out In Nature: Yes ok, another rock cliché but “getting it together in the country” can work wonders for your inspiration, especially if you’re a city dweller. Here you can be alone with just the sounds of the birds and animals to accompany your thoughts. Whether that means taking an acoustic guitar out to a field or going the whole hog and renting a country house, getting away from the noise and stress of city life can get inspiration flowing again by allowing you time to reflect and free up your thinking processes.
On The Street: If heading out to the sticks can give you the peace of mind to access your personal ideas then the bustle of busy city streets can stimulate your song writing juices by observing the sights and sounds of what’s going on around you. Find a café with a view of the street, a square where you can sit and watch or simply wander the streets with notebook in hand. It may seem like a slightly less personal way of mining for ideas but the people and places you encounter could spark invigorating and fresh inspiration.
Museums: Dip into the higher arts for some divine inspiration. The obvious places to go are art and music museums though if you have an interest in something a bit different then expand your knowledge of it; it could give your song writing a certain edge. Museums also have the advantage of usually being comfortable, silent buildings where you can sit and gather your thoughts. Also, consider taking an interest in reading and even writing poetry if you are a lyricist. The themes, techniques and tropes of poetry can give a more thoughtful feel to your words and push you to improve the quality of your writing.
Somewhere a little more personal: Think about places that are meaningful to you in your past. Perhaps somewhere with good memories, like your grandparent’s house, or with bad, like the site of a rough break-up, or a bit of both, like your old school! Walk around and think back to those times, whether happy or sad. Pinpoint specific memories and remember how you felt. The goal of all of this soul-searching is to tap deeper and more clearly into past memories and emotions to stimulate ideas for song’s right now. It can happen that the most heartfelt songs come from embarking on this kind of process, even if at times that means digging up difficult memories. After all the sad songs are often the best.
Gigs: So it might be difficult to jot down your ideas at a sweaty concert but the truth is that listening to how other musicians do it has always been a major source of inspiration for budding and veteran songwriters alike. As many writers of all kinds know it’s not about if you steal, but how well you steal someone else’s ideas. Think of the amount of kids that picked up guitars when they first saw The Beatles play, or the many musicians who decided punk was the way forward when they saw The Sex Pistols for the first time. Could Tom Waits have really gotten so weird in the 80’s if he hadn’t developed a monumental Captain Beefheart obsession? Taking pointers from listening to and watching other musicians work doesn’t make you a poor songwriter, what it’s all about is how you make those ideas your own, something that’s true to your personal style. The same applies to just putting on a record. Sit, listen and let the inspiration come to you.
Anywhere: Finally it’s important to remember that inspiration can hit at anytime and in the most unexpected of circumstances so always be prepared with a means of recording your ideas. You can find some ideas of how to do this here. As an example of this I’ll leave you with a video of Bob Dylan playing word games with signs outside an unassuming store front. Not many of us have The Bard’s gift for crafting words and, to be honest, a fair amount of what he comes out with here is nonsense. Still it gives a sense of how inspiration really can come from anywhere while also reminding us that while song writing is a serious business, sometimes ideas can come from just having some fun.
Until next time...