writing it wrong
Published March 31, 2022
Are you stuck on writing a song?
Listen, I get it.
I’ve been there so many times. Because I’ve been there so often AND with deadlines looming, I have about a hundred tricks in my pocket for getting unstuck. And I’d love to share one with you today.
So this trick comes from music school. For those of you who haven’t been subjected to music school, I’ll paint you a picture. Okay, picture me as a young man [cue the harp flashback music] in rhythmic dictation class, aka ear training, and the teacher would count a measure of 4/4 and then play a rhythm: one, two, three, four, [insert one-bar rhythm here] and then we would have to notate that rhythm. And we would only get three listens of this particular rhythm before we’d have to finish our dictation.
The method that we were taught was this: even for the first listen, write down as much as you think you know, even if it’s wrong. It’s good to try and put at least something down on paper of what that rhythm is. The purpose of writing something as soon as possible is, even if it’s wrong, the second time you listen to the rhythm, it’ll be easier if it’s written down for you to see where or how it’s wrong, comparing it to what you’re hearing.
Okay, come back to present moment.
Let’s say you’ve got a song you’re working on right now. You’re not sure what should happen in the third verse. You’ve got a melody and you’ve got the basic story. Verses one and two are poppin’. But for verse three, you’re just not sure what it should do, or where it should go, or what it should be.
Do we want to transform the characters? Do we want to take a left turn? And so you start to write something and you don’t like it and so you get stuck, right? The editing, critical mind turns on and gets you stuck.
Here’s the exercise for you, inspired by my undergrad music teacher:
write down as much as you know, including some wrong stuff.
That way, once you get it out of your head, you’ll be able to tell what’s right about it, and what’s wrong about it. If it only stays in your head, it’s likely to just cycle around and never get built.
But I dare you to write the wrong thing for that verse three, or whatever it is in your song that feels stuck.
Something about putting this down is gonna give you information that takes you to the next step.
And I’m definitely not asking you to believe me. I am asking you to try it and find out for yourself.
I dare you,
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