The songwriting advice that you should “write from you heart” is equal parts obvious and incredibly challenging. Given that most of us begin songwriting because of something we’re feeling in our hearts, it’s the most natural approach for us. But somewhere along the way when we decide to become “songwriters,” writing from the heart somehow takes a back seat to what we think we should be doing or what we think people want to hear. I’ve put together a few tips to help you refocus on the most important and essential goal of writing which is sincerity. At this particular point in our history, writing from the heart is even more important when it comes to grabbing listeners’ attention.
A great line won’t work if it doesn’t ring true
As songwriters, we’re always in search of that killer turn of phrase or line that is so undeniably clever that our listeners will marvel at our lyrical genius. There’s only one problem with this. People respond best to honesty. In other words, no matter how clever the line may be, if it isn’t connected to genuine feeling, it won’t move our listeners. Clever is fine in the service of something bigger but clever just to be clever rarely works.
The more personal the idea, the more universal the appeal
This is one of the great songwriting paradoxes. It would seem that our listeners would want messages in our songs that were more about them but the reality is that since we’re all humans with the same hopes and dreams, the more specific we can be about our own experiences the more people will relate to them on a human level. That said, don’t water down your experiences or feelings in the service of what you think people want to hear. Be yourself and people will naturally connect with your songs.
Write what moves you, not what you think people want to hear
And speaking of what people want to hear, it’s never a good idea to try to guess what will move people. Instead, do what you did when you first started writing songs. Write what moves you. That is what people want to hear. This applies to following trends, too. Trends, in my opinion, begin when people write what moves them in spite of what is currently trendy.
It never hurts to remember that songwriting is art. And, given that art is entirely subjective, your best bet will be to write from who you are and what you’re about. In other words, write from your heart and the rest of us, who also happen to have hearts, will relate to what you’re saying.