Writing with fresh eyes

5 ways fresh eyes help your songs to turn out even better

One of the cool things about writing “Song Maps – A New System for Writing Your Best Lyrics” – in a Kindle book format is that you can get a summary of what readers highlight or find most useful. It’s brilliant because it gives me feedback about things I could expand upon in the next edition or perhaps even form the basis of a new book or blog. But what is striking for me is the role fresh eyes had in creating the ideas behind these highlights.

Funny young girl with a mask for skin face and cucumbers on eyes

Here are the top–5 things people have so far highlighted the most in the book:

  1. The Process of Writing with Song Maps: “When writing with Song Maps I recommend the following four-step process: a) Select a title, b) Select a Map, c) Draft a writable idea, d) Craft a lyric, refine and re-write.”
  2. The function of Song Maps: “With this extra context, we can introduce many more colors, emotions and interest. Much of what we are doing with Song Maps is therefore arranging plot ideas rather than simply ordering story facts.”
  3. The Writable Idea: “We only develop titles to their full potential if we organize ideas into their most powerful order (a Writable Idea).”
  4. Function of a Title: “The title is the name of your product, what the listener asks for at the store. Skilful songwriters know how to make the title both unmistakable and unforgettable.”
  5. Definition of a Payoff: “A payoff is where the lyric provides a conclusion or a sense of closure, completion, satisfaction or comfort for the listener.”

However, while this is all very helpful to know as an author, what’s particularly interesting for me is that nearly all of these highlighted paragraphs were added to the text well after my first draft was completed. In other words, they were things I only saw needed to be said after having reviewed the book with fresh eyes.

Well, the same thing happens when writing songs. For me it’s a critical part of the creative process. Here’s 5 ways fresh eyes help our songs to turn out even better:

a) Accessing ‘out of reach’ ideas – fresh eyes allow us to look at our work from a fresh perspective, a new context, from a new place, ideas which we would sometimes not even be aware of when we originally write our song.

b) Accessing completely new ideas – fresh eyes can stimulate completely new ideas. For example, it was only in the final stages of recording the modern hymn, “He Is God”, that my brilliant producer (Trevor Michael) and I saw how a musical interlude could add to the final arrangement of the song. It was something I had totally missed when writing the song originally but it made the final version so much stronger.

c) Ironing out technicalities – fresh eyes can help you see where technicalities need to be tightened up – e.g. getting the scansion, prosody or rhyme schemes right. Sometimes, in the heat of drafting a great song idea, it is easy to miss where a song can be strengthened by making a few simple adjustments, which eliminate things that could stick out when the listener hears the song.

d) Ensuring our song occupies its own space – in capturing our original idea we can easily miss where our song sounds too close to existing songs. With fresh eyes we can fix this, easily, enabling us to see where our songs sit versus other songs.

e) Slowing down the writing process – fresh eyes allow us to effectively slow down our writing, taking the pressure off our original drafting process and giving us the opportunity to look at our work in a safe place at another time. This is often where the gold is sitting there for us to gather up.

There’s a saying among songwriters that “You don’t write a song, you RE-write a song”. I believe this is really important to embrace as a writer. I have some songs in my catalogue at rewrite #67. This is because fresh eyes are still doing their work, even now.

Another paragraph of Song Maps was highlighted by someone who wrote in specially to say how useful it was:

“While I’m a huge fan of co-writing, it’s amazing what you can write when you are looking to write the very best song, rather than the best song you can write in three hours.”

This is what writing with fresh eyes is all about.

So how about giving yourself the gift of looking at your work a few more times to play with it?

  • Stretch it.
  • Condense it.
  • What ideas could usefully be added to it?
  • What technicalities could be improved upon?
  • What would happen if you took the lyric to a completely different place?
  • What if you put it into a different voice?
  • Change the time signature.
  • Speed it up.
  • Slow it down.
  • Apply a different Song Map to it.
  • Is there a way of tightening up the internal rhyme scheme?
  • Change the overall rhyme scheme.
  • How about landing the title on a massive rhyme agent.
  • Etc etc.

You never know, you might have left a number of wonderful gold nuggets behind when you originally drafted it.

Simon.

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