“The act of hearing, writing and then repeating it back to someone else or out loud to ourselves further affirms the Word in our life.“David Crank
WRITE DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS
A recent blog post, citing “Write The Vision. Habakkuk 2:2”, Pastor David Crank says:
“God continues to speak to those who write it down. They are better positioned to regurgitate it back later. The information is reinforced through the act of bringing permanency to the message in writing. The act of hearing, writing and then repeating it back to someone else or out loud to ourselves further affirms the Word in our life. Faith comes by hearing… (Romans 10:17) Write it, read it, speak it!”
He brings out a valid point: what if the Apostles Peter, John and Paul never wrote anything down? Where would we be today?
HOW TO ”JOURNAL” YOUR GREAT IDEAS
We use personal encounters, sermons, artistic prompts, inspired thoughts and Scriptures to create our great musical ideas. Hiding these treasures carefully in our earthen vessels, we hope and pray one day we will be able to bring these valued gems out of hiding and into the light, just at the right time when a song demands it.
There are undoubtedly times when the Holy Spirit breathes a beautiful creation over our lives, and we can’t write it down fast enough. But for the other times, when we plug along and try to play ”Concentration” with little bits and scraps of inspiration we have stored up, that is where we need a little help. We need to journal our songwriting thoughts, not only for generations to come, but for our own confidence, inspiration and edification. But how do we spend time journaling when life is spinning around us?
Start by keeping an open file of all your handwritten scraps.
Ideally, our brains would work like some kind of giant musical search engine, where we pull a thought out from an online notepad, and plug it into a song. But our memory banks don’t seem to work that way, most of the time. We need help with reinforcing our memory, so we never get stuck saying “Where did I put that?”
You have little bits of lyrics and melody notations written down on envelopes, table napkins, church bulletins and event tickets. You need to save these, but where do you put them so they won’t be lost? To begin with, designate a special box to keep these in. (but remember to label the box so it doesn’t get stacked somewhere…or thrown out!) This one habit will pay for itself many times over in time saved! If you have a filing cabinet, designate a hanging file folder, and label it “Song Ideas.” Keep it open wide enough to receive those odd-shaped crumpled paper with scribblings that you want to toss in there. Later, you can tape these into a calendar book or journal, so you can remember where you were when you wrote it. Every year, I start a new calendar journal, and fill it with titles, lyrics, events and Scriptures I read during the day. . This really helps, and in years to come, these calendar journals make a sort of “scrap book” for you to relive your golden days of songwriting. DayDesigner has some amazing journals, free calendar journaling pages and MCSquares has some very creative ideas for surface planners. Take a look at the inside of each journal. They have this journaling idea perfected. Day Designer also has tons of free downloads and organizing tips. When time allows, retrieve your precious bits from your box, and tape or paste scraps of paper, concert tickets, and anything else that inspires you into this journal.
Tip: if you have a paper treasure that is badly crumpled or folded, do what I do: smooth out the paper between two pieces of clean cloth (to prevent scorching), and iron it! This works really well, and makes the paper look better your journal.
If you are artistic, you can make little drawings next to the scrap of paper, illustrating your thoughts. Here are some images I saw in my search for Journal Doodling you might enjoy.
A very dear friend of mine, an artist and songwriter by the name of Diane Hurst, has a journals she created using her artistic skills. You can find her collection here. Some of her sample journal covers, all original art:
What? Learn fancy writing? This may sound a little crazy, but you can thank me later. In our busy world of ”please print” And electronic signatures, something as archaic as cursive handwriting may seem out-of-touch. But take a look at this Pinterest page and see what you think. Scroll down and enjoy. Now, just think…if you were able to title a lyric sheet like that, wouldn’t that be amazing? Go ahead…pick one of those handwriting styles you like, and imagine that all your handwritten notes and music pages look like that font. Elegant and mysterious. If you could have your own special style as you write your music, lyrics and journal entries; a style that catches the eye and ignites the imagination, wouldn’t you want it? An elegant handwriting style makes your musical story and journey sing to the heart in ways that regular type can’t. There are many sites like Craftsy and that has tutorials and videos on fancy handwriting and calligraphy, and you can practice and doodle while you are waiting on hold, or in your quiet moments. It is very relaxing to try your hand at this special kind of art.
CATALOG YOUR SONGS
In 2010 I started off my songwriting career aggressively. I wrote 3 songs a day for 6 months, and recorded an amazing amount of files on Logic. All with no labelling. I printed off a catalog sheet, and meant to keep going with it, but after the first week or so, I got lazy. Foolishly, I thought I could remember all that information. Bad mistake. Lesson learned. I should have known that someone who can’t retain more than 5 passwords would have a little trouble remembering where lyrics and music files are stored.
Assign catalog numbers to your songs. This can be a succession of numbers by date, or it can be a creative “Dewey Decimal” type of category assignments. I am including a generic catalog sheet below this post for you to download and print, to make it easier for you to get started. Copy this sheet several times, hole-punch the sheets, then place them in a 3-ring binder. You can label the sheets by category (i.e., Worship Songs, Choral Songs, etc.), cataloging each song the way you want, to make it easier to find them. This will do wonders for you later on, and you will be glad you did it. Most likely, you will remember lyrics to your favorite original songs, but if you need a memory prompter, some people also create a keyword search for their own songs, to help them find them later on. Not a bad idea at all. MCSquares also has some innovative ideas for organizing your studio office that are worth looking at.
“The shortest of pencils is better than the longest of memories.” My husband quotes that for me once in a while, when he senses that I need to write down a thought. I love that quote. And I love him for reminding me to do that. Confession: I am not a natural-born journaler. I have had to learn, by trial and error, how to document my life in calendars and journals. At times I still resist, thinking somehow that I don’t need it; but I come to my senses when I realize how important this really is.
As Christian songwriters, most of us being singers, we have no problem making our voices heard. Let us commit to bringing our exquisite thoughts and gems into the light, in writing, where the world can see them, and thereby glorifying our Father in Heaven.
In the next part of our series entitled “COMPLETE THE MESSAGE, Finish your Song Completely”, we will be giving you some tools, books, online classes and tips to help you finish up your song. See you next time!
songwriters complete one song, and prepare it for several uses. Future posts in this series will address songwriting tools, song form, workshops, books and other tips, but in this beginning segment, we discuss how we can take a song from ”scraps to completion”..