Everything comes from something. Every idea is sparked by the tiniest bit of inspiration. Sometimes it could be overhearing a stranger in a café speak a very specific set of words that can turn into absolute pure song magic. Maybe it’s a little turn of phrase on a television show or just a single word that can set your imagination ablaze. Lizzo read a tweet that turned into “I just took a DNA test.” By the way, the original tweeter received songwriting credit. (Thanks Lizzo). Being open to inspiration from the universe is a key part of maximizing your abilities as a songwriter.
Let’s refer to that as passive inspiration. But how do we go and create active inspiration?
A great way to do this is by unplugging from the matrix and going old school. Opening a book. It’s radical. But it can really work.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be about songwriting, or inspiration, or anything like that. It’s just a welcome distraction to having your brain think in a different way.
Here are five (in no particular order) essential reads to help motivate your music MoJo, re-spark your songwriting savior faire, inspire you to look at things from a brand new perspective.
By: Justin Gray Founder/Chairman MDIIO
1.All You Need To Know About The Music Business - Donald Passman - There’s really not much to say about this music industry Bible. Originally published in 1991, and about 10 editions since, this book is widely known as the standard guide to a successful music career. You MUST understand every facet of the inner workings of the music industry. Passman is your “How To” sherpa. If you really really really really want to do this, and you’re passionate about it, then there’s absolutely zero reasons for you not to voraciously consume this book.
2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** - Mark Manson - One of my personal faves! Plus as you’ve seen in past blogs, I really love the F word. LOL. But this book in particular really helps you break down and understand what pursuing your passion is all about. If anything, it will provide unparalleled insight into how to deal with rejection and ultimately turning lemons into lemonade. Even the most successful songwriters have had to suck on their share of lemons. Pucker up baby!
3. Green Eggs and Ham - Dr. Seuss- On its face, this might seem like a silly suggestion. But in truth, this is one of the most beautifully written poems in modern history. The ability to tell a story in rhyme all while making you smile or feel something is really the root of what every song should be. How do you say more by saying less? That’s the goal of any songwriter. You need to create a visceral reaction and an emotional connection to your art. Green Eggs and Ham is a masterpiece when it comes to simplifying the message and delivering a meaningful story.
4. Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell - Gladwell popularized the theory of 10,000 hours. Outliers is an amazing homage to the people that have chosen non-traditional pursuits of their passion. Songwriting is perhaps one of the most nontraditional passions. If you’ve not read this book, it’s an absolute must. Super easy read, and at the very least it will provide some meaningful insight into who you are, and why you do what you do. If for no other reason, it’s your opportunity to understand why and how The Beatles and Bill Gates became successful. Basically, you are like The Beatles. Or you can be!
5. How To Write One Song - Jeff Tweedy- In blogs past, we’ve discussed the importance of building a creative box for yourself, sticking to it, and staying within it. “How To Write One Song,” is a genius take on creating your own rules sets and helping you achieve your ultimate goal of writing one incredible song. Tweedy examines how to make creativity a part of your everyday life, and how to take that and apply it to writing your song. Plus, as the frontman of the band Wilco, Jeff Tweedy knows a thing or two about writing halfway decent songs.
The Coda: Inspiration is not easy. Especially as a professional Songwriter, your only commodity is the ability to sit in a room and divine inspiration seemingly effortlessly. That in itself is a skill that needs some time to develop. Start by putting yourself into situations where you are forced to be creative. Do this enough, and you will develop the skills to conjure up creativity at a moment's notice.
Keep writing those hits and see you next week.