1. Decide What It Is You Want to Write AboutThis goes back to your reasons for wanting to be a songwriter in the first place. The best songwriters have certain themes that they always go back to, whether it's heartbreak, politics, etc. Knowing what you want to write about will also help you get over writer's block in the beginning. So write a list of subjects you want to write about. Be sure to review this list every few weeks as your identity as a songwriter will likely change and evolve as you gain more experience.
If you're not sure what you want to write about, answer these questions. What would you change about the world if you could? What makes you angry? What makes you happy? What makes you feel strong emotions in general? What do you spend most of your time thinking about? The answers to these questions should give you some insight into your own songwriting personality.
2. Get in the Habit of Writing EverydayOne of the best ways to learn a new skill is to get into a daily habit of doing it. This may seem like an obvious point, but common sense isn't always common practice. For beginning songwriters, I recommend scheduling at least an hour a day specifically dedicated to songwriting. Write about anything, even if it's only a line or two. Try not to be overly critical of your work in the beginning. Right now, you're just getting yourself in the habit of writing everyday. The more you practice, the better you'll get. This is one of the most important things you can do as a beginning songwriter, so don't overlook it.
3. Listen to a Lot of MusicAnd I mean a lot. Virtually all great songwriters start out as great music fans. They listen to a wide variety of artists playing different styles of music. Musicians that restrict themselves to only one of two genres can stifle their creativity. When they write their own songs, they tend to be limited by the conventions of those one or two genres. Even if you only plan to write in a specific genre, I still recommend listening to other styles of music. This will strengthen your creativity, introduce you to new ideas, and make you more well-rounded as a songwriter in general.
4. Look Up the Lyrics and Read Along With Them When You're Listening to Songs and AlbumsThis may seem like an incredibly simple step, but it's extremely effective. As you listen to more and more music this way, you'll get a subconscious feel for what works and what doesn't. You'll also get ideas for your own songs. This is exactly what I did to take my own skills to the next level, so don't underestimate it. This is the closest thing I've found to downloading a skill into your brain.
5. Use a Rhyming Dictionary and a ThesaurusSome songwriters don't like the idea of using a rhyming dictionary, but there's really no reason to not use one. It can only help you complete your work, especially if you're just starting. This will help familiarize yourself with the most common rhymes for all of the words you'll be using. While this can be useful for songwriters of all levels, odds are you won't need it as much as you gain more experience. Think of it as training wheels in the beginning. Rhymezone.com and thesaurus.com are both useful resources.
6. Study Your Favorite SongwritersOdds are, there's someone who inspired you to write your own songs in the first place. So find out how they do it. Read books about them, listen to their interviews, and most importantly, find out what their process is. While you're at it, study the songwriters who inspired them. This can sometimes lead to even greater insight.
7. Analyze Your Favorite SongsBreak them down and imagine you were the one who went through the work of writing it. Ask yourself why you love this song and why other people love it. Do they relate to the lyrics? Do they enjoy singing along with it? Does it have a great riff? Is it fun and energetic? Odds are, if a song is popular among people, there's a reason. Find out what the reason is and apply it to your own songwriting.
8. Surround Yourself With What Inspires YouNot just music, but other things as well. It may be literature, art, nature, current events, a loved one, or something else. This will help you overcome writer's block and keep you in touch with why you want to write songs in the first place. Of course, try not to go overboard. While these things aid in the creative process, you don't want them to distract you from making music.
Regardless of your reasons for becoming a songwriter, make sure you take it seriously. Great songs are one of the main things an audience listens for, and it deserves every bit as much attention as any other aspect of your musicianship. Of course, the best advice I can give you is to be patient and have fun. Like anything else, becoming a great songwriter isn't something that happens overnight. If you keep practicing and working at it, it will gradually become easier. When things get difficult, remember why you want to become a songwriter, and enjoy the process of expressing yourself through song.
About the Author:
Jes Johnson has been writing songs for over ten years. He is currently the singer and main songwriter for the high-energy rock n' roll band The Fatalities. If you'd like know more, please visit www.thefatalites.com.