How to apply Writing Tips from Stephen King to Songwriting and Music

Invaluable insights and advice from the prolific writer Stephen King; all of which can be applied to music  - from production to songwriting, in order to vastly improve your work and output.

By Eimear O SullivanMusicngear Editor

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Real life comes up - so do a consistent, set amount every day

A truly valuable piece of advice that can be applied across all disciplines. 

Doing a set amount each day not only allows you to be productive whilst also giving you the freedom to function and deal with the demands of life - it also enables you to live and enjoy your life without constantly feeling guilty or overwhelmed.

Article photo - How to apply Writing Tips from Stephen King to Songwriting and Music

When asked by George R.R.Martin how he is able to write so many books - Stephen King said that he does 6 clean, fully done pages a day and works for 3-4 hours. 

This can be applied to songwriting, production, mixing - by giving yourself small, manageable tasks to work on on a daily basis you will hugely increase your output and your skillset.

For example - if you are looking to sit down at your DAW and programme/produce a song idea you had, give yourself set tasks to do in a set amount of time each day. Complete the lyrics for verse 1 and the bridge; the next day complete the chorus and verse 2; the next day record the vocals; the day after that record the harmonies and so on. Not only will this prevent burnout - it will result in you getting a lot done over long periods of time resulting in you feeling fulfilled and not relying on erratic bursts of inspiration; and will get rid of the feeling of being chained to it while waiting for inspiration to strike.

 

Document every idea and come back to it

Article photo - How to apply Writing Tips from Stephen King to Songwriting and Music

Ever write a song - and when you go to record/compose/produce it, it just seems to fall flat and doesn’t have the flavour you imagined? 

Do not lose hope - instead of deleting and forgetting about the song altogether - record it and save a rough demo to come back to at some stage in the future.

On this subject Stephen King said that documenting your ideas is the best thing you can do - as the good stuff stays. He gave the example of his book ‘Under The Dome’- which he got the idea for when he was teaching high school in the early 70s, however he advised that the idea at the time was just too big for him and he was too young for it, so when he was older he came back to it, by which time he was ready to take it on and turn Under The Dome into what it is today.

When returning to a demo you recorded in the past - the first listen will provide you with truly invaluable, gut insights that can only be gathered from the objectivity that comes with fresh ears. Examples of this being where you expect the song to go, what the song needs in order to flow, if it has stood the test of time and new ideas on how to turn it into a full production and arrangement, that may not have been there previously. 


The best writers are voracious readers

Article photo - How to apply Writing Tips from Stephen King to Songwriting and Music

Stephen King himself is an avid reader - and advises that in order to develop as a writer, you must be reading constantly. 

A similar principle applies to music production and songwriting - as not only does listening to music and searching for new artists inflame your creative spark and fuel your desire to make something yourself - you inadvertently pick up on production and arrangement techniques which will in the long run make you better at what you do; and these influences will permeate into your music and make it all the better.


Learn different mediums - just do it for yourself first

Article photo - How to apply Writing Tips from Stephen King to Songwriting and Music

Don’t dismiss other mediums. 

In an interview, Stephen King said that he initially didn’t have much interest in screenwriting. However he began practising it himself,and just as an exercise turned a book into a screenplay (which wasn’t for anybody but him - this was solely just to practice).

This also fully applies to music and learning other mediums of music will not only inform and improve your music and skillset overall; it will open you up to a lot more opportunities.

For example - you could try learning the basics of composing for movies and/or tv shows, and create scores and themes that are just for you; such as writing a short musical theme for a character that portrays who they are in music format, or write a theme that will communicate the emotion in a scene. This will deepen your understanding of music and will hugely influence and improve your productions.


Inspiration comes from unlikely places

Article photo - How to apply Writing Tips from Stephen King to Songwriting and Music

Detailing how the inspiration came about for some of his books - some stemming from bizarre real-life interactions and encounters, and another from watching a completely unhinged news story unfold while watching TV in a motel room - shows that there are no rules as to what can inspire you and that inspiration can be drawn from anything.

One of the most important takeaways from this lies in the following; in order to do anything creative, be it music, songwriting, film-making - there has to be a well that serves as the fuel from which you draw, meaning you have to live and experience life. Never leaving your studio or refusing to do anything else aside from sitting in front of your DAW will stunt your creativity; and will limit the flavor of what you put out. 


And finally, rejection is part of the game - don’t take it personally

Stephen King received so many rejection letters when he was starting out - that the nail he used to pin them to the wall was too small and was unable to hold these up any longer - so he just got a bigger nail. 

Putting yourself out there and casting your net as widely as you can will result in a lot of rejection - however with the message here being, don’t give up, adapt, adjust and keep on going.

About Eimear O Sullivan

Eimear Ann O Sullivan is a multi-genre music producer, audio engineer and vocalist. After receiving a Masters in Music Technology from the CIT Cork School of Music, she went on to operate as a producer under the name Blakkheart. Her releases have received critical acclaim from Ireland's biggest music publications, such as District Magazine and Nialler9, alongside receiving heavy commercial radio airplay. She currently works in Cork recording studio Flashpoint CC. Previous clients of hers include the likes of Comedy Central’s Dragony Aunt star Candy Warhol, rapper Darce and Outsider YP. (Photo credit @Fabian Boros)

Contact Eimear O Sullivan at eimear.o.sullivan@musicngear.com

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