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Ten writing tips inspired by songwriters

Yesterday at the SXSW festival I had the opportunity to hear three talented songwriters talk about their craft. It made me think about how to make my own writing better. Can we apply what songwriters know to copywriting and other non-musical writing?

The venue was a vast, grey meeting room in the Austin Convention Center. At the front of the room sat three geniuses holding acoustic guitars: Hayes Carll, Ron Sexsmith and Hazel Dickens. As they took turns singing songs and answering questions, I jotted down some notes about what makes their lyrics so strong.

  • Tell a story.
  • Use small words.
  • Mix the obvious with the surprising. Affirm what someone knows, then challenge them.
  • Write pure. Declare.
  • Tap into the heartfelt.
  • Be good at wordplay.
  • Be good at metaphor.
  • Don’t over-explain.
  • Seek universal experiences.
  • Write about what you know.

These tips come from songwriting, but I think they’ll help make any writing better.

Pictured: Posters outside the Austin Convention Center this week advertising performances.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Lyrics

One comment

  1. These are GREAT tips. I was just discussing with a friend how important some of these were, especially ‘seeking universal experiences’ and ‘mixing the obvious with the surprising.’ It’s a challenge to keep these in mind while writing but I’m definitely going to be giving it a try!

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