Songwriting vs Regular Writing

For the past month, I’ve been working on a song called “Got Your Back”. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s about staying together and helping each other out when times get tough. Now song writing for me has always been categorized into a separate type of writing than “regular” writing. Somehow in my brain, adding music to a collection of words automatically made writing these words different than regular writing. But lately, as I’ve gotten more experience with writing lyrics for songs, I’ve realized that writing lyrics in many ways is similar to any other writing process.

For example, you have to what you’re trying to communicate. The more I’ve been reading my own writing, and reading other people’s writing (my roommate takes an English class and she lets me read other people’s essays for her peer review sessions), the more I’ve realized that you really have to know what you’re trying to say. A lot of the times, professors and teachers have told me that my writing can get really broad or vague. And this is true, but I never really knew why. Through my gateway course, I’ve found that my writing gets so broad because I don’t really know what I’m trying to say (this ties in with my previous post about mindless writing).

You also have to make sure that the words flow well together. You don’t want any awkward sentences that sound weird when you read/sing them. Sometimes I try to phrase things to get in all the little details, and what ends up happening is that I get a really awkward sentence. It’s the same for songwriting. Of course, songwriting focuses more on the sounds that words make together because it’s too corny if you rhyme all of the words, and it doesn’t sound good when you don’t rhyme any. I guess it’s all about that balance. Adding some rhyme helps the lyrics flow, but having some words not rhyme makes the song feel more organic because too many rhymes can make it sound unnatural and overly constructed.

When I was looking up quotes for songwriting, I picked out the image above because it really rings true for me and how I write lyrics. Sometimes, I write lyrics simply to rant, or communicate anger to someone (because I don’t have to guts to say it to their face). If you look at my lyrics, they’re all filled with the word I. It’s always I this and I that. Sometimes you would think that my lyrics are more like diary entries. They’re a way for me to express my thoughts. But the problem is that I do it too blatantly. I have forgotten that writing lyrics is also an art form, and that the words we choose, in order to communicate our feelings and ideas, can be crucial to the overall tone of the song. Like Janine Turner said, “I have always written poetry, but I have never applied it to songwriting”. I’ve never tried to write lyrics in such a way where I thought of it as poetry. And it’s honestly because songwriting is more of a way to share what I’m thinking rather than to express what I’m feeling. Or maybe it’s both but I’m just not doing it in an artistic way? I think I haven’t really thought about these things when I write the words to a song, and it’s something that I really want to try. If writing well means writing intentionally with a conscientious mind, shouldn’t I do the same with writing lyrics? What kind of words would I come up with then?

2 thoughts to “Songwriting vs Regular Writing”

  1. Rachel,
    This blogpost really caught my attention because I write poetry a lot to express my feelings. I’m the opposite of you: I write poetry, but never think of them as song lyrics. One time I tried to convert a poem of mine into a song, but it didn’t work out, so I decided I would stick with poetry.
    I think that it is really good you talk about how you’re feeling a lot. That means the song has meaning. If you think about it- a lot of really famous songs are just artists expressing their feelings. Blatancy is definitely not a problem. Just think of Taylor Swift- not only is everyone aware of what she is feeling in her songs, but many times they are well aware of who she is talking about. Whether or not you are a fan of her doesn’t matter. All that matters is she has millions of fans and her lyrics are being heard by even more.
    I don’t know if you were trying to say that poetry is less blatant than song lyrics (or maybe you were trying to make the exact opposite argument), but I think that it all depends on what style you are going for. There are some poems that say exactly what they are trying to say, and others use a bunch of similes and metaphors to indirectly say something. This is the same for writing song lyrics. There is no right or wrong way to do it!

  2. I think songwriting and essay or more formal writing are two completely different things. Like you said, songwriting is more like poetry – it’s supposed to be more of an expression of creative thought. Less polished, less thought out, and sometimes more personal as well. I think your writing style as you describe it (broad and vague) is well suited to songwriting. Best of luck with finishing it!

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