Every songwriter has his or her process when writing. By learning about other peoples' processes, it becomes easier to find your own unique path. Let these books be a jumping off point for your own inspiration and creativity.
1.) The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
We have all had those days - nay, weeks, months! - where we struggle to motivate ourselves to grab our guitar or notebook and work on that song. The blank page is terrifying, isn’t it? It’s easier to fill our heads with thoughts of self-doubt than it is to fill a blank page with lyrics and chords.
Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is a look into what stops artists from creating. As a prolific author, he has plenty of experience overcoming writer's block. He gives our self-doubt and fear a name, Resistance, and gives pointers on how to combat it.
Pressfield structures the book into three main sections. In the first, he defines Resistance as both external and internal forces. In the second section, he compares battling Resistance to an ongoing war, where the artist needs to change their perspective to that of a professional soldier: “I go to sleep content, but my final thought is of Resistance. I will wake up with it tomorrow. Already I am steeling myself” (page 67). In the final section, Pressfield uses spirituality and Jungian philosophy to describe how to better understand ourselves.
This book is a quick read and will kick your butt into gear. It puts your creativity into your hands and doesn’t blame anything else but you for your writer’s block.
2.) Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison
You’ve finally beaten your demons (at least for now) and you’re ready to write. Or maybe not. Maybe you need a refresher on lyric-writing?
Pat Pattison is a professor at Berklee, College of Music and author of several songwriting books. He provides a free course available on Coursera, Introduction to Songwriting. In Writing Better Lyrics, he uses his expertise and friendly tone to create an engaging and easy-to-read resource.
Writing Better Lyrics is a practical guide to writing song lyrics. Pattison uses different examples (usually pop and country) to illustrate different aspects of songwriting. Topics are separated into easily digestible chapters and come with writing exercises. Chapters cover song structure and other narrative devices, like meter, repetition, and point-of-view.
Honorable mentions: Pat Pattison’s Songwriting series and Sheila Davis’s Successful Lyric Writing
3.) The Craft and Business of Songwriting by John Braheny
The late John Braheny was a singer-songwriter and author. His willingness to help musicians culminated in his bestseller The Craft and Business of Songwriting. The book focuses on commercial skills but the information can extend to pop and other genres.
The book is divided into two main sections. The first half focuses on the craft of songwriting. Braheny emphasizes the need to develop your "Songwriter's Consciousness." This consciousness helps you find creative inspiration before learning to construct songs. The second half of the book goes into the business side of music. From marketing, contracts, and finances, Braheny takes the esoteric and makes it accessible.
Today, The Craft and Business of Songwriting continues to be a relevant resource for songwriters.
Honorable mention: The Manual by The KLF, an irreverent and satirical look at the music industry and how to write a pop hit
Creativity is often a lonely endeavor, but it doesn't have to be done in a vacuum. Many others have paved the way ahead of us and written to tell the tale. Hopefully, these books will start you on your way.