The trouble with finishing a song is that songwriting is hard.
Possible, manageable, achievable. But hard.
It’s hard because songwriting, like any kind of creativity, means making something that doesn’t exist yet.
And the trouble with making something that doesn’t exist yet is that – because it doesn’t exist – you don’t know how to make it.
In a nutshell, that’s how creativity works. And that’s why creativity is hard.
There’s no formula. There’s no rulebook. There’s no IKEA-style instructions.
You just have to figure it out.
One of the most common questions I get asked both through the site and as a songwriting coach is ‘How do I finish a song?’
And the honest answer is, you keep going.
You finish a song by coming up with ideas until the song’s finished.
I know that’s not a sexy answer.
I know that’s not an exciting answer.
I know that’s not an answer I can explain in a three-step WikiHow article with nice pictures.
If you’re confused about your song’s structure, I suggest you stick to a simple Verse-Chorus structure – like Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus or Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus.
If you’re not sure what to put into your song’s verses, have a think about your song’s story and try brainstorming details about that story – no lyrics yet, just words and phrases! – that might inspire a full lyric.
If you’ve written your first verse but are stuck on your second, think about a shift in time or place or topic you could use to frame your second verse. What other focus could help inspire you to write something new?
If you’re struggling to find your song’s groove think about what kind of style or character you’re aiming for and keep coming up with ideas until you find one that works.
If you’ve been writing all afternoon and nothing’s coming out, try a different tactic. Or go for a walk, do the dishes, come back to it tomorrow.
If you think what you’ve written sucks write it anyway and improve it later. Or just finish this song and make the next one better.
But either way, just keep going.
It’s more important that you finish one crappy song than leave twenty songs unfinished. Always.
You get better at writing by writing. You get better at the creative process by doing it, over and over again, from start to finish.
If you hate everything you make, don’t take this the wrong way, but screw you and screw your feelings. Screw your feelings and keep writing anyway.
You aren’t going to like everything you make. You aren’t supposed to like everything you make. You’re just supposed to make it. And learn from it. And then make the next thing, but better.
Seriously. You finish a song by finishing it.
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Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash