What to do When The Words Aren’t Flowing


Sarah Spencer

Is it normal If the words aren’t flowing? Absolutely. Here's what songwriters can do about it. Songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary songwriter | SongFancy.com

“Is it normal If the words aren’t flowing?”

A SongFancy writer asked me this question recently and I thought was worth addressing in a blog post. She wanted to know, “When you have an idea, and you know what you want to write the words aren’t exactly flowing out, is that normal?”

It can be endlessly frustrating to have a really good idea for a song but then at the same time feel like you don’t know where to take it. You might start by writing a verse or chorus and then only get halfway through the song before getting completely frustrated and giving up.

Is that normal? Absolutely.

Sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes it feels so easy that you can’t believe it. Sometimes you feel like the words are flowing out of your mouth and your mind and your heart like a fountain and it’s all you can do to write them out as quickly as possible before you forget them.

And other times, it feels like a giant uphill climb after you’ve already been running a 13 mile marathon and suddenly you realize that you have no more wind in your sails and the words just aren’t coming – the music isn’t playing – the notes aren’t there, and instead, the silence piles up like boulders on your path. You get really discouraged and think well, that’s it. That’s the end of this song. There’s nothing left, I don’t have anything left to give it.

Song writing is easy until it’s difficult.

You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days. You’ll have days in between they feel a bit mediocre or practiced or rehearsed. That’s okay. This is a creative cycle that just about every songwriter goes through.

So what do you do about the ideas that you feel stuck on?

Y’all know by now that I am a huge proponent of speed writing and pushing yourself to finish a song even if you feel absolutely stuck. If you have an idea that you really like, but perhaps are feeling a bit blocked, try this out:

  1. Go do a 5 minute task. Step away from the song and go make a cup of coffee or tea or spread some cream cheese on a bagel. Play with your dog. Go do a quick five minute task that removes your brain completely from songwriting.
  2. Come back. Now come back to the song. Being away for five minutes and doing a different task may have triggered some ideas about the song simply because you weren’t thinking about it directly. If so, write those ideas down and start there.
  3. Freewrite. If stepping away for five minutes didn’t produce any new surprising ideas, start free writing. Where do you being freewriting? Meditate on what your song is all about. Think about the main takeaway you want people to hear when they hear your song. Think about the concept, and the metaphor, images, sounds, feelings, anything associated with your song. Free write on that. Let the words come out, don’t stop yourself, don’t edit yourself. This is all raw material.
  4. Come back. Now come back to the song. What are the missing pieces? Stuck on the second verse? Let’s start there. Refer to the big chunk of raw material you’ve just free written and start filling in the missing pieces of your song.
  5. Fill it all in. Don’t stop until every blank space has been filled in. Seriously. Just put something down, even if you don’t like it. You can always re-write it at a later date.
  6. Re-write later. Come back to your finished song for rewrite whenever you’re ready to adjust it!

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Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer is an award winning singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN.

Born in the Sunshine State, Sarah Spencer writes vibrant, shining americana/pop music. She works in Nashville TN as a singer/songwriter, as well as a UX designer for a marketing firm.

Follow Sarah on Spotify to get her latest releases.

You can jump on her email list at SarahSpencer.com or purchase her debut EP, "Freshman Year" on iTunes.