When my friends at Lifeway Worship asked me to write a blog on how to start a song, my initial thought was to ask if maybe the title shouldn’t be, “Steps to How I start a Song.” I have always maintained one of the ingredients that keeps the creative process “creative” is the fact that everyone’s path of how they get there is a little bit different.
In fact, to this day whenever I meet a new songwriter, I am intrigued about their process. If there is something they are doing that might work for me, I want to know. With that in mind, let me walk you through a little of my process.
- Since I am primarily a lyricist, for me, the process begins with feeling like I have something to say. Sounds pretty obvious, but I listen to far too many songs where even when it’s done, I am not convinced the writer had anything new or relevant to say. Sometimes a great line (or hook) is enough to start the process, but on it’s own is seldom enough to sustain an entire song. Ask yourself if you are taking the listener to a place they have never been or at least taking them to a familiar spot via a different road.
- The second step in my process usually involves thinking backwards. I’m not advising you to employ this technique as much as I want you to know why I do it. Any writer worth their weight in whiteout has, at some point, started chasing an idea they were excited about only to have the destination change in the middle of the song. Sometimes, the pursuit of a pure rhyme will find you at the end of a verse or chorus reciting the rhymer’s mantra (aye, bay, cay, day, etc…) and end up with a song you never intended to write. For me, locking in the anchor lines first keeps the destination secure.
- If you made it through step 1, and I didn’t confuse you with step 2, now comes the fun part. I tell people if they want to be a writer… go write! Is it hard work? Hopefully. Too many distractions? Blame Steve Jobs. Does your song sound like another song? Probably. Any or all of these things hold the potential of derailing what could have been. Push yourself hard and don’t settle for good enough. It’s also important to remember: you don’t have to write the quintessential song every time. Today’s song may be God just getting you ready to write what He is going to give you tomorrow.
I hope these few lines inspire you to pick up the pen (or open the word processor) and see where the song takes you. Who knows… maybe next time they’ll let me write, “Steps to Finishing a Song.”
Dave Clark, an award-winning songwriter, is a Michigan-native that lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife of more than 30 years, Cindi, and his three amazing children, Allison, Anna and Sam. Along with having 25 No. 1 songs (on Christian Music Charts) to his name, Dave recently graduated from Nazarene Bible College with a Bachelors Degree in Ministry. In 2013, he was ordained as an Elder in the Church of the Nazarene. In addition to writing words, his hobbies include editing video, playing any instrument with strings and standing in line for whatever Apple sells. You can read more about Dave on his web site: DaveClarkWrites.com. You can also find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @DaveClarkWrites.