Songwriting Exercises: How to Improve Songwriting by Using Constructive Rest
Which songwriting exercises can improve quality of your songs?
Sometimes it’s easier to do brainy or routine work for longer periods of time than it is to produce or create content from scratch.
To sustain a full day of creativity, it takes more than a willingness to muscle through.
We have to set up our whole system to be tuned to our inspiration/muse. In order to have the creative faucet turned on all day, we have to make sure our tank is full.
In this post, we’ll talk about ways to rest that can open you creatively and increase your productivity.
“No rest for the weary”
First, let’s talk about rest on a human level.
Take a look at your own relationship with rest and if it is undervalued in your life.
Society in general has a “whatever it takes to get by” mentality.
This is a far cry from older cultures like Eastern yogis and Buddhists, or southern Europe and their siestas. Have you, consciously or unconsciously, subscribed to the idea that the harder you push and the longer work, the greater the success? While it may be true if you’re farming or building houses, our ability to write and produce music depends on us being the best version of ourselves.
Constructive Rest means taking a mindful, present break.
When taking your breaks, do your best to avoid numbness, overthinking, and dwelling. Commit to an intention to get back to work as soon as your break ends. Here you’ll find techniques that can give every aspect of you a reprieve: the body, the mind, the heart, and the spirit.
Body: Supine rest
Hands cramping? Jaw Clenching? Brow furrowing? Spine aching? Hips tight?
Take a 10-15 minute break. Too much? Okay, 5 minutes. Set your timer.
Lie on a solid floor or thin carpet. Make sure you are not too cold or too hot.
Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the ground, wider than hip-width distance apart.
Then, let your knees fall toward each other, letting your legs completely relax and your lower back widen on the ground.
If you feel discomfort in your neck, place a book or a pillow under the back of your head at the appropriate height. Place your hands on your belly and rest your elbows on the ground.
- Try to take big breaths, maybe even some audible sighs.
- On an exhale, encourage your body to release the gripping in your jaw and brow.
- The next exhale, cultivate a willingness to be soft in your overworked hands.
- On the next exhale, cultivate some space and lightness between the spine bones.
- Use your attention and awareness to target and release any place in the body.
- When time is up, be gentle with your body as you slowly come out of the pose. Be careful to avoid undoing all of your progress! Try drinking some water, then jumping back into work.
If you have more than 15 minutes, get up and move your body! Exercise, stretch, take a yoga class, go for a walk or run and be with nature. After, eat something healthy and not too heavy.
Your body is your instrument. It needs to be tuned and cared for.
If you find yourself sacrificing your health for your work, it is important to take a step back. The quality of your health and the quality of your work are directly linked.
If our goal as artists is to make people feel happy and free, we shouldn’t be harming ourselves in the process. Treat your body like you’d treat your voice, guitar, laptop, or any other tool you use in your creativity. Not only does it feel great to be healthy, but it increases your productivity and amplifies your talents!
Mind: Replace Output with Input
The mind works hard to filter, edit, and manage creative ideas. But this filter is meant to let creativity flow in both directions.
Take a break from your output, and take in some art. You are encouraged to depart from your medium, so if you’re making music, try going to an art museum or a dance show.
Shift your attention and absorb someone else’s vision for a change! Be in audience. No one has to create in a vacuum! Be part of your culture and community.
Not only will you give your mind a break and clear the “filter,” you’ll be filled with new ideas, balanced and inspired.
Note: This is inspired by The Artist’s Way: A spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. This book holds an incredible program that can transform your creativity and productively. Highly recommended!
One of the most taxing and intense aspects of creating is how the inner child and the heart is filtered and edited by the mind.
To give your heart a break, release the “censor” in your mind and improvise.
Sing or play your heart out, any song or melody, previously written or not. No permanence, no recording, just a childlike playfulness and pure expression. Whatever comes to you, let it out.
Let the mind sit on the bench for this one. Free-sing, free-play, or free-write, and take the burden of the mind’s logical editor off of the heart.
Your willingness to play needs uninhibited room to practice.
Be willing to “fail.” Be willing to “sound bad.” Be willing to trip, stumble, fall.
Take a look at your relationship with the concept of “failure,” and make sure it is healthy. Creativity requires these stumbles, just as a toddler needs to fall as they learn to walk. Our endeavour as artists is as primal as that toddler’s. As you improvise, shake off the mind’s editor, and shake off the fear of failure. Just enjoy the play.
Once your session has ended, notice if you feel more open and free. Get back to writing/creating, and bring with you those results.
Who knows, you may discover some of your best work while you thought you were on a break!
Spirit: Expand your Awareness
Step away from your desk or instrument to contemplate a larger picture. Sometimes this can come in the form of a meditation, sky/stargazing, learning about astronomy, physics, or anything that expands your awareness of the world and how it works in this universe.
Zoom out. Pause.
See if you can push against the edge of your own understanding. Set your intellect aside, and use your intuition to grow your perspective.
If you already have a practice you would call “spiritual,” great! Take a break and meditate and contemplate. If this is uncharted territory for you, you are encouraged to begin. Ask someone in your life who has a spiritual practice about their experience. Look up your local meditation center. Use the internet as a resource. What you are seeking is available to you!
If you build in time to take a morning break, an afternoon break, and a midday meal break, you will notice the difference in your process and your product immediately.
But especially over time, these types of constructive rest can transform you as a person, and therefore, an artist.
Be open to your changes, be curious about the ways in which you can still grow. This is directly linked to your ability to collaborate, create, and produce your best possible work. When we are in tune, our efficiency improves. We dwell less on decisions because our intuition is running the show. We muscle less because our heart feels like it’s playing rather than working. Our body is stronger and has impeccable stamina. Mind serves the creative vision rather than trying to control and edit everything. The whole system is aligned, our talents can shine, and we can be an open channel for the work.
Sounds too good to be true? Give it a shot and see for yourself how taking mindful, present breaks can improve your process, and therefore, content!
Once you give the exercises a try, tell us about your experience in the comments section below.