The 9-Minute Songwriter Workout

by Clay Mills
Nov 7, 2023

The 9-Minute Songwriter Workout consists of three songwriting exercises designed to get you into the flow of writing without overthinking it.

Your best ideas come from the subconscious, and you can tap into this with regular practice. Remember to do these exercises quickly, spending three minutes on each in rapid-fire succession. I like to set the timer on my iPhone. Don’t judge or question ANYTHING you write down. This isn’t a test! The sole purpose is to train your creative thinking to respond on command. I find it helps to write with pen and paper, instead of typing. A lot of studies show that your brain responds differently when writing, as opposed to typing.

Pen and paper? Timer set? Okay, let’s go!

1. Write down every song title that comes to mind without censoring yourself. Work fast. Spit out titles. No judgment. Go wherever your thoughts take you. (Note: These are you’re own original titles. Not pre-existing song titles!) I like to write my titles in a Hook Book. There’s something about writing down ideas on paper that go deeper than typing on an electronic device.

2. Choose one of your titles to play word association. Write down every word or phrase that relates to your title. Don’t think! Just work as quickly as possible. This songwriter workout is freeing up your subconscious.

Here is an example of how I free-associated one of my Darius Rucker hits.

Title: “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”

Associations: regrets, missing you, could’ve been, should’ve been, wrong choices, mistakes, do I cross your mind? looking back, rearview mirror, where are you today? are you happy? what ifs.

Songwriter Workout - SongTown on Songwriting

The Poor Man’s Rhyming Dictionary

3. This is not only a great songwriting exercise but it also works in the writing room! Choose a word in your title and play poor man’s rhyming dictionary: write down as many rhymes as you can. Example: My title is “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” rhyming the word, “it.” Work your way through the alphabet and add consonants to the beginning of the word.








etc. Not all letters will work, so move quickly to the next.

Today there is less emphasis on perfect rhyme so don’t be afraid to cast a wider net: D-itch, W-itch, S-witch. In the example song I used the word “regret” as a rhyme with “it”. The meaning and the Darius’s delivery made it work beautifully. This songwriting exercise will strengthen your rhyming skills so that it becomes second nature. Your goal is to spend less time “thinking” of rhymes while writing.

Congratulations, you did it! I like to think of songwriting as a muscle that will get stronger and more flexible the more you work it out. You want to be in top writing condition when that inspiration hits for a great song.

Repeat the 9-Minute Workout daily!

Write On!  ~Clay

Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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