How to Find Inspiration to Write Songs

Four Methods:Drawing on Your Personal ExperiencesGetting Inspired by ArtUsing Writing Exercises to Get InspiredDeveloping a Writing Habit

The dreaded writer’s block is something all songwriters have to deal with from time to time. Luckily, there are many sources of inspiration out there. From drawing on your own experiences and emotions to creative writing exercises, there are many methods to get you back on your songwriting game.

Method 1
Drawing on Your Personal Experiences

  1. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 1
    Write about yourself. Your life experience (memories, opinions, emotions) is your richest resource and your perspective is what will ultimately make your song unique. Keeping a list of things that happen to you or emotions that go through you will give you a wealth of material to draw on.[1]
    • For example, keep note of stories that you either hear or personally experience.[2] Stories are always a great source of material for songs not only because they are unique but because they tend to have a range of different emotions, which will likely make your song more interesting.
  2. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 2
    Write about your emotions. Think about an emotionally charged event in your life, such as a death, wedding, birth, falling in love, etc. Do your best to describe what you felt at that time and try to be as detailed as possible.
    • For example, if writing about a breakup, write out a list of words that come to mind that describe the scene (not only how you felt, but the surroundings, what colors stood out to you, any adjectives that come to mind, etc). Don’t worry at this stage about rhyming or setting the lyrics to a specific melody. For now, just having this raw material down is a great start.
  3. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 3
    Keep a journal. Many of us go through our days and only write down notes, lists, emails and the like but keeping a journal will allow you to reflect on what you are going through and provide you with material from which you can mine different images and phrases for your songs.
  4. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 4
    Write down your dreams. Many of us have strange, abstract dreams that we quickly forget about after waking up. Instead of letting go of those interesting images and unusual situations, keep a dream journal! Not only will writing down your dreams help you remember them for longer, but you’ll have a new repository of strange and unique stories and images to use for your songs.
    • Keep a pen and journal right by your bed and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. We tend to forget our dreams as we wake up, so writing them down as soon as possible will allow you to get the most out of this practice.
  5. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 5
    Leave the house. Go for walks in public places and look at other people or your surroundings for inspiration. Lots of songwriters write about nature, other people, or interesting experiences. Get out there and let the world inspire you.
    • Try eavesdropping. Sometimes, listening in on someone else’s conversation can open you up to a totally new perspective and you may even find something intriguing or surprisingly lyrical in someone else’s words. Just be sure to write them down so you don’t forget them later while writing your song!
    • If there’s a place you feel particularly emotionally connected to, such as a specific park, try going there with a pen and paper and just sit down and write whatever comes to mind.
  6. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 6
    Try something new. Many musicians lead very interesting lives that also serve as inspiration for their lyrics.[3] Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Whatever the outcome, it’ll certainly give you something to write about.
    • Trying new things also tends to give people an adrenaline rush and this can be an exhilarating, inspiring experience. Though extreme activities, such as skydiving or scuba diving, can be great options, you don’t have to do anything too crazy to get the same rush. Traveling somewhere you’ve never been, going to an unusual event, or even trying out a new recipe or DIY project can all be potential sources of inspiration.[4]
  7. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 7
    Be nostalgic. Look at old photo albums, reread old letters, visit family and childhood friends and talk about the past. Nostalgia is a very powerful mix of emotions and from these activities can emerge many stories and emotions to draw on.[5]

Method 2
Getting Inspired by Art

  1. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 8
    Listen to music. This may seem obvious, but listening to music and paying attention to the song lyrics will not only teach you more about the mechanics of successful song lyrics, but can also be inspiring.
    • Try taking a walk and listening to music without lyrics. You can also do this while sitting down, but being outside and moving can help inspire you to come up with lyrics that are set to the music you are listening to. Pause every so often to take notes if you come up with any lines you think are particularly good.
    • Go back and listen to the music that initially inspired you to start songwriting. Everyone has different musical tastes and influences that change over time. Go back to the musicians who first inspired you and spend some time listening to their music and figuring out just what it is about their music that you like so much. Doing so will help you know what to emulate and what to avoid in your own songs.
    • Pay attention to the classics. Iconic songwriters, from Quincy Jones to Woody Guthrie, attained their status for a reason. Regardless of your particular music tastes, you should spend at least an afternoon listening to some classics and dissecting what about them appeal to so many people. Make note of the arrangements and structures as well as the lyrics as these will inform your own songs later.[6]
    • Listen to various types of music, especially new styles or music that you don’t normally listen to. Broadening your musical horizons will inspire you to incorporate new sounds or styles that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
  2. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 9
    Explore other art forms. You don’t have to limit yourself to music for inspiration. Try to consume as much art as possible in all its different forms as doing so can inspire you in unexpected ways. Watch movies, read books, go to art galleries--anything creative can feed your own artistic spirit.
    • Reading different forms of literature can also help your songwriting a great deal. Poetry is a great place to start because it is most similar to song lyrics. Reading also has the added benefit of expanding your vocabulary, which you can also use in your own songs.[7]
  3. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 10
    Pay attention to unconventional art forms. Inspiration is all around us as long as we are open to it. From street art to experimental theatre, the more you get out of your comfort zone, the more exciting possible inspirations you may find.
    • For example, you could spend a day exploring the graffiti in your area with a pad and paper. Many street artists are compelled to make public art for a wide range of reasons (such as raising political awareness or beautifying an urban area).[8] Therefore, there’s often a diverse range of emotions and images that can inspire you. As you explore, be sure to take note of any descriptions, phrases, or emotions that come to mind.
    • Discomfort isn’t always a bad thing. Seeking out new experiences (such as strange art forms that you aren’t naturally attracted to) may make you uncomfortable but this challenge could actually fuel you to produce new, exciting work.[9] This is especially true for those who may feel like they are stuck in a rut or creating the same thing over and over.

Method 3
Using Writing Exercises to Get Inspired

  1. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 11
    Experiment with different writing exercises. There are many different writing exercises one can use to get inspired. If you’re feeling really stumped and don’t know where to start, try a writing exercise. Having a specific set of instructions can take the pressure off and get those creative juices flowing.
    • If you feel intimidated, try telling yourself that you’ll only write for five minutes. If, after five minutes, nothing comes out you’ll know that you’ve at least tried. However, more often than not, you’ll find yourself settling into the writing process after five minutes and you’re likely to come out with at least a few ideas you’re happy with.
  2. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 12
    Try writing about an object. This is a songwriting exercise called “Choose an Object” used at the Berklee College of Music and can be very helpful in generating new ideas.
    • For this exercise, simply choose an object at random (a potato, pencil, mountain, or article of clothing are all valid options) and spend ten minutes or so writing down any memories you associate with it.
    • Don’t worry about making it sound good or even writing complete sentences. Instead, focus on using as many different senses as possible (such as taste, smell, sound, emotion). You’ll end up with an unusual list of diverse images and emotions but any or all of it may be great raw materials to craft a song out of later.[10]
  3. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 13
    Try a David Bowie-approved exercise. Bowie has described one of his methods for songwriting and you may want to give it a try to see if it works for you. This exercise can be particularly useful for those times when you just have no idea what you want to write about.
    • Write down a paragraph or two describing different subjects to create a sort of short story. Obviously, this will be a very rough draft. The point is to simply get anything onto paper, even if it doesn’t make complete sense. Then, cut the sentences into sections of four of five different blocks, then mix them up and reconnect them. They may not make sense or they may form a completely new idea altogether.[11] Either way, given Bowie’s successful career, you might as well try one of his methods to see if it works for you too.

Method 4
Developing a Writing Habit

  1. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 14
    Find a quiet space to work in. Though we often think of inspiration as something that just strikes us, a certain level of discipline is also necessary to create polished song lyrics. Having a set place to focus and be creative can motivate you to keep up a regular practice of songwriting.
    • Something as simple as a desk can be a great place to write. You can even put tools, such as pen, paper, a dictionary and also decorate the space with some of your favorite musical inspirations to keep you going.
    • Studies have shown that the color blue can enhance performance on a creative task.[12] Try repainting your space blue or have blue decorations in your space to keep you going.
  2. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 15
    Decide on a writing routine. Some people feel most inspired and excited to write first thing in the morning while other people find the evening time to be best for their creativity. Figure out what time of the day works for you (bearing in mind other responsibilities, such as your job and schoolwork) and decide on a writing routine accordingly.[13]
    • You can even schedule this time into a calendar or planner if you use one. After a few weeks of consciously doing this, it’ll eventually become second nature and you’ll have a steady flow of written material for your songs.
  3. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 16
    Minimize distractions. It’s all too easy to get distracted by social media, chores, and all the other daily aspects of life that demand our attention. However, having a specific time and place to do your writing will carve out some space that takes you away from all of that.
    • If you use your computer to write, make a commitment to not use the Internet until you get a set amount of work done. If you find yourself constantly itching to look things up, turn off the wifi and write notes in your work of what to research once you are done with the rough draft.[14]
  4. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 17
    Collaborate with others. Think about who in your life is also engaged in artistic pursuits and ask them if they would be willing to collaborate with you. Collaborating can be as easy as giving each other feedback on each other’s work or even starting a new project together. Not only will you motivate each other to produce work, but you’ll also get great feedback and a fresh outlook that will make you a better songwriter.[15]
    • Your collaborators don’t necessarily have to be musicians. In fact, working with an actor or writer may be even better as you’ll get a totally different perspective.
    • Be proactive about receiving constructive criticism. After all, you want new, good ideas and so don’t take criticism personally but instead see them as an opportunity to improve.
  5. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 18
    Join a writing group. If you’re having trouble being disciplined about your writing, consider joining a writing group! Writing groups are generally open to all different forms of writing and knowing that you have an audience that is going to read your work and give you feedback can motivate you to just sit down and get that song onto paper.
    • Oftentimes you can find local writing groups that meet once a month or so to do writing workshops. Look for ads in cafes or other community spaces. You can also browse websites like Craigslist.
    • If you feel uncomfortable talking about your work in person, you can also find online writing groups.
  6. Image titled Find Inspiration to Write Songs Step 19
    Keep a notebook and pen on you at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike so you’ll always want to be able to have these important tools handy.[16]
    • Writing notes down on your phone is a good alternative if you aren’t the type to carry a bag around.


  • Don’t be afraid to be abstract. Lyrics don’t always have to tell a straightforward story. Many popular songs and classics don’t even make sense but are loved by many people
  • When you get an idea, even if it’s just an image or phrase, write it down. The more of these notes you have, the more material you’ll have to draw on for inspiration when writing songs.
  • Don’t be afraid to write songs about typical themes such as love, heartbreak, or loss. Though these may seem like cliche topics, each song will always be unique to the writer. You can even take these themes as a challenge to write about classic topics in an innovative way!
  • You can also use online tools to help you write songs. For example, "RhymeZone"[17] is an online rhyming dictionary that allows you to type in a word and will generate synonyms as well as words that rhyme.
  • If you struggle with rhyming, get a rhyming dictionary. A rhyming dictionary is different from a regular dictionary in that it groups words that rhyme, thus saving you lots of time and mental effort. This is also a great way to expand your vocabulary.[18]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (15)

Article Info

Categories: Music | Songs and Song Writing