Starting Songs from Pictures

Season 2 Episode 11 We've been talking a lot about starting points for songs lately on The Honest Songwriter podcast. And with good reason. This probably the he number one question I get from people when they're inquiring about my process. “I don't know where to start,” tends to be one of the biggest excuses I hear that new writers use to block themselves from writing. It's a fear of not having something to say. Or just not having enough experience with the process to know where to find that starting point. Or even if you are an experienced songwriter, maybe you sit down and feel stuck with no good places to go. This is the problem. It's not just a problem for newbies but experienced songwriters too. So over the last handful of episodes we've been doing a little miniseries on starting points. Braking down the process of finding different places to start. Going over what that look like for different people. We talked about “encounters” – getting hit with that magical “inspiration” when you encounter something that evokes a feel in you. So much so that it makes you want to write a song about it. And we also discussed the power of “generative structures.” Different constraints or rules you can build yourself to help guide your decision making. These can take the form of games, prompts, introducing random chance, or simply having some rules for your writing. And they're really helpful when you aren't running into those encounters in everyday life at the moment. In the past couple of episodes, we also examined starting songs from musical ideas (riffs, motifs, melodies, etc.) and starting songs from words. We dug into and what encounters and generative structure look like in each of these settings. In today's episode we 're wrapping up the little miniseries by talking about what it looks like to start songs from pictures. Whether that's something you're physically looking at or a mental image you have. In today's episode we also talk about the importance of creating strong visual imagery sense-bound imagery in your writing. This means creating a specific sense and feeling for a mental image in your audiences' head when they listen to your song. Whether it's through an explicitly  “narrative” story your you're telling in your lyrics. Or if it's just an emotional landscape you're painting in the audience's head. Having a strong mental image in your own mind while you're writing can help create continuity in your songs. It can help you be more clear in what you're actually trying to say. Cleans up your communication by giving you direction on where to go next with your writing choices. Starting from a picture (painting, photograph, TV/Film, mental picture, something you see in everyday life) can help give you a clear sense-bound sense of what you're writing about. The same rules were were talking about with the other starting points apply here. You can have some sort of encounter with an image. Maybe you run across a moving scene in a film you're watching, or pass an interesting character on the street. And you know you just have to write a song about that. Alternatively you can set up generative structures around pictures to guide your writing. Maybe you go to an art museum and randomly choose a piece to write about. You can set a timer and hit pause on a TV show when it goes off, choose the character on screen, and write about what they're seeing or experiencing. You can play these fun sort of games with your writing and see what comes of it. As we wrap up this miniseries, hopefully you're starting to come up with ideas for starting points. You can do things to help develop more awareness to where you can have these “encounters.” And through “generative structures” you can build out a rotating arsenal of tools that help keep you writing. Even when you're not “feeling it.”

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15-20 minutes of regular, open conversation about songwriting, what it's like to be a songwriter, and how to keep improving at the craft of songwriting. New episodes every three weeks!