• Kate McLaughlin

I'm gonna start by saying every writer is different. Some writers truly achieve greatness at random times and just have to wait for inspiration to strike. If you know that's you, then don't read this post. However, if you just say you're waiting for inspiration but you're really just finding an excuse to be lazy, then we've got a problem. I used to be like this. I would say I could only write when unknown forces told me I was ready, but really I was just not writing. I wouldn't even notice that days would go by that I wasn't working on my craft.

There's no way to sugarcoat the fact that all I was was being lazy. I didn't want to go through the energy that it takes to write a song. I didn't want to think about my feelings or take the time to invent a story. So I said I was waiting for inspiration, and did nothing at all.

In previous posts I've talked about the difference between amateur and great writers. Well here it is again: great writers write even when they don't want to. And that's true for anyone who's great at anything. Once I came to this realization I knew I needed a game plan - so I made one. At the beginning of every month I plan when I'm going to write (the secret is I do it on a white board so I can modify as life inevitably gets in the way)

For every week of the month I pick 5 days a week I'm going to write, 2 days a week I'm going to study songwriting (through a book or online resource), one day to record, and one day I'm gonna rest and let my creative juices rejuvenate.... or rejuicenate (lol I'm not funny I know). Basic math shows you that this adds up to more than 7 days in the week, but I'm assuming you understand that sometimes I do more than one thing. The point I'm trying to make is that when I schedule the time, I actually do it. When I wake up in the morning I look at the schedule, if something can't get done, I move it to another day. If everything gets done for the day I give it a check. That way throughout the week I can see how many times I've written, how many times I've studied, how many times I've recorded, etc.

I truly believe that keeping track of your habits is an important step in ensuring you're doing all that you can to be the best writer you can be. It's easy to let a week go by and not notice how little you've written because life gets so complicated.

There are many ways to keep track of what you're doing, so find something that works for you. Make a schedule and stick to it, you and your music will thank you.

  • Kate McLaughlin

Updated: Apr 27, 2018

Writer's block is incredibly annoying. It's like your brain has locked the gates and you're pouring and pounding on the outside, but it refuses to let you in. Not a single idea is flowing and you start to doubt whether you were meant to do this.

So how do we beat writer's block. I'll admit, I frequently will just stop writing. I'll decide it's not the right time and come back to it later. While this does work for me occasionally, there are also time when we are on a time crunch and need to get a song written. Maybe you want to prove to yourself you can finish what you started, maybe you are working with a publisher who needs a song, or a singer is waiting for an updated version of the song. No matter the reason, it's vital that you finish this song, and I'm gonna tell you how.

One of my favorite songwriting tips is to write new lyrics to an existing melody or write a new melody to existing lyrics. I think sometimes writing original lyrics and melody at the same time can be too much to think about at once. I recently rewrote the melody to Kacey Musrgaves' "Butterflies" and I fell in love with what I came up with. I paired it with lyrics I had lying around in need of a new home, and voila - the song was done! I've also written lyrics to a tune that already existed. They still need a melody, but the story is there, which is one step closer than I was before.

Another way I've gotten through writer's block is reading real people's experiences. For example, once I was writing a love song about wanting an ex back. I didn't have much experience in that department, so I went online. I simply typed in the question "what do you miss most about your ex?" and I found a whole website with people talking about real experience and real emotions that made them miss their past flame. I was able to use their answers and get the song written.

A final way I've gotten through writer's block is by examine some of my favorite songs and writing based on their structure. How does the story develop? Is the opening line a general statement, a description of a place, inner thoughts of the characters? Is it written in first, second, or third person? Can you use a part of their chord progression but in another key? Is there a cool rhyme that stands out, can you create something similar? You have to be careful with this one, as you don't want to infringe on copyright. I do think it's ok though to use other people's work as inspiration. Picasso did say "good artist's copy, great artist's steal"

I hope you found this post in someway helpful or interesting. Even the most experienced writers are faced with writer's block. But great musician don't let it stop them. Let me know if you try any of these tips and how they worked for you!

  • Kate McLaughlin

Updated: Apr 27, 2018

Being a songwriter takes a lot of courage. It's hard to put yourself out there and share your art with the world. I think that we have all faced the feeling that we are not be good enough to be worthy of this art.

When I first started writing songs I had this weird misconception that songwriting was a selective path that only a few could follow. I thought some people were born with a gift that I wasn't. I felt like I was trying to force myself into becoming what I wanted, not what I actually was. I assumed I wasn't and never could be a songwriter.

But one day I just went for it, and let me tell you, that first song was horrible. I think all of ours probably were. But I kept going. I think that's what separates amateur songwriters from great songwriters. Any great songwriter will tell you they wrote 50,000 horrible songs before one good one. I'm no incredible songwriter, I still don't think I've written my masterpiece, but with every song I write, I get a little closer.

The trick to breaking through doubt is knowing that there are greater things coming if you can only find the courage to continue. This goes for songwriting, and anything else you dedicated your life to. So if any of you have had similar thoughts when it comes to songwriting, here's my advice to you:

1. Tell yourself you are a songwriter. After you tell yourself tell your mom, dad, neighbors, friends, people you meet in the street, scream it to the world. I think you have to be confident in this title to start truly breaking through the fear that you're not good or worthy enough.

2. Challenge yourself to write more than you already are. Everyone is on different schedules so it's not fair to say that everyone should write a song a day, a week, or a month. But whatever you are doing, try to do more. This is the proof you need to show yourself that you can not only write, but you can set goals and achieve them. This confidence will shine through in your writing.

3. Have confidence that everything will align how it's supposed to. This is probably the trickiest, and the one I still struggle with the most. I think if you follow through with the first two steps this one will start to come with time. Depending on what your goal is, have faith that one day you will get there.

That's all for this week! I hope this post helps other songwriters understand that doubt and fear are things we all live with, and hopefully will shine a light on some tangible steps we all can take!

I haven't forgotten about the songwriting challenge I introduced last week, life just got unexpectedly crazy. I ended up covering a lot of extra shifts at my work which made it more difficult to finish the song and finalize the video, I'm sure everyone is familiar with life throwing the unexpected at you. I will get around to posting the video!