Exercising The Songwriting Muscle

by Clay Mills
Feb 17, 2024

My very first publisher used to read me this quote. Over the years it has always served as a constant reminder to keep my songwriting muscle in shape….

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” ~Jane Yolen

I have to agree 1,000 percent with this quote. I have often read, mostly in interviews with recording artists, things like “I only write when I’m inspired”. I believe this is a myth that some writers and recording artists perpetuate that great songs simply fall from the heavens and only a few chosen ones (like them) are given these gifts.

But the real truth is songwriting is no different than anything else in life. The more we do it, the more we exercise the songwriting muscle, the better we get at creating.

SongTown on Songwriting

The more we play with words and notes, looking at all the possible meanings and emotions, the deeper we understand the possibilities.

Yes certainly, once or twice a year a song seems to come effortlessly as a gift. But being a writer means I don’t have to wait for this gift to create magic. I am not at the whim of the creative muse to bestow me with a song. Guitar players practice, practice, practice… so do dancers…

Is a great ballet dancer less of an artist because she practices hard and long?

Songwriters are no different. This is a freeing thought. Because no matter where you are on your songwriting journey, you can get miles down the road by writing more.

I have witnessed greatly talented people wither away their talents by not working at it and I’ve witness folks that seemingly start out not very good writers become masters of their craft with steady effort. So today remember it’s not a great mystery, it’s a journey… work a little each day and have fun writing. Even if it’s 15 minutes. The Songwriter’s 9-Minute Exercise has always helped me to stay at peak writing performance. Try it, your art will thank you and you will be rewarded.

Write on! ~CM

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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