Place your hand on your heart. Do you feel it beating? Well, of course you do. You’re alive, and that qualifies you to do everything you do with HEART. Our heart is what believes, mourns, loves, fights, dreams, and desires. It’s what drives us, what motivates us, what cautions us, what inspires us, and what takes our breath away. Through our heart we experience joy, pain, triumph, struggle, faith, fear, hope, doubt, and more. It’s the core of who we are. The center of our being. It’s our beliefs and values that make each of us unique.
But too often as songwriters, and more specifically lyric writers, we are THINKING our heart out of the process. By doing this, we are removing the very life blood, emotion, passion, and breath from our music. But, time and again, we make creatively damaging decisions letting what we know override what we feel.
The heart is a messy place. It doesn’t always lend itself to the perfect rhyme or following the unwritten songwriting rules. It doesn’t always lend itself to mass appeal or a radio single. It doesn’t always mean the song form will be V-C-V-C-B-C-C.
We are desperate for a revival of heart in our songs. We are desperate for a revival of honesty and purity of lyric. Music and melody can only go so far, but the message a song carries is what pierces through the noise. What message are we wanting to leave on the lips of our generation?
We can no longer afford lyrics about vague struggles being a mountain in our lives. Get real. “Gut wrenching” is our only option. And I’m not pointing a finger, I’m guilty. Collectively, we’ve written more than enough safe songs. It’s time we write about how God is meeting us in our lives so specifically that you are simultaneously excited and scared to show someone else.
Put your inner-diary on display. Being horrified and exhilarated to show someone a new song should be a prerequisite for songwriters. Because if you aren’t petrified and about to explode in revealing something, your heart isn’t truly in it and it doesn't mean EVERYTHING to you. Put your soul out there for everyone to see. Share your story. Own it, and watch it empower others.
Too often, we are hoping to speak to someone else in our lyric content. It’s time we learn to truly speak for ourselves, again. The struggle you are going through WILL SPEAK to someone who is also going through that struggle. The fear you face, is the fear someone else is facing. When you begin to speak from the heart, you will see your songs begin to connect with other’s hearts.
After all, songs without your heart in it, are just manufactured phrases. They are just processed and re-processed muck. It’s recycled lyrics adorned with worn-out phrases. Without your heart, songs are just thoughts and information.
Ok. Fair enough, Sean, but HOW do we get back to being “heartfelt”?
Tell your mind to shut up and let your heart bleed. Silence your critic that immediately compares every lyric to another popular one, and let your heart run wild. Don’t fence it in. Let it wander. Take the rule book, and just burn it. The rules that governed yesterday, won’t usher in a new tomorrow. Take RISKS. Forget about judging eyes. Follow what God has seared on your heart with undying passion. Reveal your innermost feelings, and inspire someone with transparency.
And in the process you will write bad songs. And you’ll write embarrassing lyrics. BUT, you will never break through to anything new by playing it safe. Growing as a lyric writer is a conscious decision that you can make at any time. So it’s always worth the risk of saying something stupid in the pursuit of getting better.
When you are finally able to get past your critical mind and put your heart out on the line, you are starting to venture in to TRUE CREATIVITY. True creativity is born in risk, not in safety.
But how do you start?
What moves you? What breaks your heart? What do you struggle with? What has brought your heart joy? Don’t speak for anyone else. Speak for yourself. It’s not hard once you break the levee that has been holding the flood inside your heart. Smash the levee, and flood your work.
I used to call myself strictly a melody person. I had convinced myself that music, arrangement, production, and melody were my mission. But that is absolutely false, and frankly, lazy. What qualifies us all to be inspiring lyric writers? Our life, our experiences, and our encounters with the Lord. Surely, there are some that are more gifted at putting words together in a poetic fashion, but just because you don’t have that skill doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be pouring your heart into the lyric. Your heartbeat qualifies you to risk writing great lyrics.
You possess something so unique, so dynamic, and so wildly inspiring… Your heart. We can no longer afford to hide it. This generation is desperate for people who are not afraid or ashamed to play from it, lead from it, sing from it, write from it, and create from it.
Learn how to bleed on everything you do with it.
Then you have found something truly rare and inspiring, authenticity.