Turning Time On Your Hands Into Better Songs

Years ago, I had a big write scheduled and it got cancelled the morning of the write. One of the biggest writers I had ever written with traded me for a co-write with Cher. I couldn’t blame him, but I was very let down. My publisher said “Turn time on your hands into better songs.”

Say What?

I didn’t know what he meant, so I asked for clarification. He said “If you’ve got time on your hands you can ‘kill it’ or you can do something to help you write better songs.

He was kind enough to give me some concrete “time on your hands” ideas to help me improve. I’ll pass them along to you here with some of my own added:

Look For Ideas

Better and more ideas mean better songs. Search for quotes about life, love or other popular song themes. Don’t wait for an idea apple to fall on your head, actively spend time LOOKING for them.

Organize Your Ideas 

I use a database app called Airtable, but any database will work. It syncs my ideas to all of my devices and makes it easy to find them when I need them. I can search my titles by topic, title, or co-writer if I want to write an idea with a specific person.

Read A Book On Songwriting

Time on your hands isn’t wasted if you learning and growing in your craft. Find a book on a topic that you want to improve on. Clay Mills has a great blog on 7 Books All Songwriters Should Read. You can find books on many songwriting topics to help you make the most of time on your free time.

Blueprint Some of Your Best Ideas

Going into your next co-write MORE prepared always gives you a better shot at something great! If you don’t know HOW to blueprint your songs, there are videos in the SongTown Learning library to help you out.

Take A Class Or Watch A Video Online

SongTown has a number of self-guided courses free to all members. Also, hundreds of hours of instructional videos by dozens of pro songwriters. By my estimation, we have enough video content on the SongTown website for you to watch NON-STOP for 29.16 days. That should help if you have LOTS of time on your hands.

Read A Novel By A Great Author 

Reading great writing helps your songwriting even if the book isn’t about songwriting.  I have gotten many song ideas from reading books that weren’t about songwriting but were written by real great wordsmiths.

Don’t Kill It!  Use It To Write Better Songs!

So, if you’ve got time on your hands, turn it into better songs by improving your skills instead of just killing it!

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

4 thoughts on “Turning Time On Your Hands Into Better Songs

  1. Great ideas, Marty. Thanks for the tips. One other thing I do is listen to great songs and think about what makes them great. Sometimes I get great inspiration for a new song from a great songwriter like John Prine, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jim Croce, etc. It’s amazing how much great songs can inspire other great songs

  2. As much as I’ve tried this approach, I just end up being inspired in the bathroom, mainly the shower, as something pops into my head. Of all the hundreds I’ve written, the only one I ever actively tried to write was like a goof – an extension to Townes’ “Buckskin Stallion Blues” called “The Sea,” which I decided to do as a bit of a tribute to post on Twitter. I can’t complain about the result, however; I just sold the licensing rights for commercial use of that very song last night. So no doubt that you, Mills and the other talented professionals here give great advice. Though just me speaking of me, this is something I cannot seem to do very well. I had a one-off go at it, though every other time I’ve tried to actively seek to write, I’ve come up with gibberish that’s gone into my “semi-song” folder or the recycling bin.

    Would you say, for instance, search out the inspiration for the lyrics rather than the lyrics themselves? E.g. once you get that spark of an idea that you find, and the song writes itself…

    Typically how it happens for me. They sort of pour onto the page within 10 minutes of the spark, lest they never reach fruition as an actual song. I’ll have to search around the blog to see if there are any tips on dealing with that! haha

    Enjoyed reading this. Plan on joining at the end of the month when I can free up some money.

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