I understand the difficulty of summoning creative lyric writing in the studio. Sometimes it can take you hours to write just one line that makes you cringe the following day.
I’ve worked with some brilliant lyricists over the years so I thought I’d share some of their top tips with you!
Get exponentially better in the long term
A quick win from a few simple tips isn’t going to secure you a long term career as a great lyricist. So what's the long term plan to separate you from the artists that weren’t willing to put in the effort?
Poetry, literature, lyrics…anything that speaks to you on an emotional level. Find writers whose words inspire you, and try to understand why their words had such an impact. Just the act of reading and taking in the information will give your brain a creative boost and you’ll subliminally learn techniques that you can pull from when writing lyrics.
Theres a great book called Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon which goes deeper into the topic of getting inspiration from other artists. Here’s a great quote from the book:
"If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research."
Wilson Mizner (1876–1933)
Training Your Lyric Muscle
Great lyricists often keep a journal as a way to materialise and immortalise their ideas. They write down their dreams or how they’re feeling just to channel the thoughts.
Try an exercise where you simply scribble down your thoughts and you try to not stop. This can be difficult to begin with, and a blank canvas can be intimidating. Write anything that comes into your head without judgement and just keep going. If you flex your 'ideas muscle' often, you’ll find your flow much quicker in the studio.
Stay In Your Flow
Lyrics can be the embodiment of matters that are very important to you. So it’s understandable that an element of perfectionism worms it’s way into the process. This is why lyricists can get stuck on one line for hours at a time. A pro tip is to just write the jist of what you want to say on that line and move on. Stay in your flow.
The first draft might end up being the final lyrics. A moment of brilliance where everything just clicked. But don’t be afraid to redraft and see if you can sculpt a better version of what you’ve got. With that in mind, keep hold of all of your works, complete and incomplete. You may find a way to turn an unfinished work in progress into a fully formed piece of art.
Tools and Techniques
A rhyming dictionary and thesaurus can be a great way to give your lyrics some added flavour. You might be endlessly searching for that perfect word and these tools can save you the time and drop them right in your lap. Don’t get dragged into using over-complicated words or phrase. This can be confusing for the listener and distract from the intended message. Simplicity is usually much more effective.
Your audience probably won't read your lyrics, they'll hear them. So don't just write them down during the creative process, you have to say them or sing them to hear how they sound.