The method of hurting yourself to gather inspiration for lyrics and music isn't a new ideal. It didn't hit its peak until the '90s, and has only continued to grow with no signs of letting up.
This method of writing has two core issues:
Let's go into more detail about the problems with this method of writing.
Unless you're a masochist (which hopefully you are getting treatment for), looking for ways to hurt yourself for inspiration is never going to be neither fun nor work. Most people who write using this method are bitter, depressed and generally not that talented.
It creates a poisonous mindset and poor results. People gravitate towards things they can relate to, as well as use to put themselves in a better mood.
The bottom line is this: this method of writing is unproductive and unhealthy.
Now that we're done talking about the personal repercussions of this method of writing, lets discuss the actual problems it creates for your music.
Music written using this method is limiting. If you're always trying to make yourself a victim, all your music is going to be written from the view point of sadness, anger, depression, or resentment.
The emotions you base your song off of will limit your chord, form and melody options. I love a good song full of strong emotions, but when your entire catalogue is based around only four emotions, it gets boring quickly.
Another big issue with this method of songwriting is the limited perspective of the songs. Ever since the '90s, when this method of writing blossomed into the mainstream, every single song has been about I, me etc. Some people actually refer to it as the "me" generation.
It's been 25 years since the beginning of the '90s, but most songs I hear are still sad or have some sad premise to it. This is extremely obvious in rock music these days. It's also why many people find most modern rock music to be dull. You can only listen to someone sing about how their life sucks so many times before you become immune to it and it loses all meaning.
At this point, writing in the 'poor me'/'hurting myself' method has become rather cliche.
Let's move on to the solution.
How can you write great songs that are emotional, real and that you, and the audience can connect with?
A song is a story written in sound rather than pen and paper. If every book was written about how much an author's life sucked because he went through this terrible break up, no one would buy them!
He might have some popularity at first and then people will start avoiding his book and him because it would just drag them down. Who wants to read a book full of pages with someone complaining?
Authors of best selling novels write books about situations, worlds, and problems that they have never dealt with or lived through.
Their books connect with millions of people. How do they do this?
Authors do this, not by writing from personal experience or life experience, but by writing from the senses of their memories.
If you can write lyrics using your seven senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, body, and motion), then your lyrics will be emotional, real, and connect with the
I'll give you a quick example of what I mean when I say write through the senses of your own memories:
When you were younger and you made a snowball to throw at your siblings or parents, what did that snowball feel like while it sat in you hand?
For me, I remember myself wrapped up in a mountain of coats with little green snow pants on. I molded the snowball without a second of hesitation. The snow quickly soaked through the cheap thin black gloves my parents had picked up from some second hand store. I might as well have just been holding the snowball in my bare hands.
I could go through more detail, but you should understand the basic principle now.
You open up many doors and possibilities if you use the sense method as opposed to the self-harming "me" method.
For those of you who still need some more proof consider these examples:
Disney hires writers to write songs for their movies. Many of these movies were not written about humans. "The Lion King" and "The Little Mermaid" for instance, were written from the perspective of animals and creatures of myth. The songs in the movies were still able to capture the hearts of millions of people and by no means did they come off forced or contrived.
The lyrics for the song "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Women" were written by a man. Aretha Franklin performed it, but the song itself, was co written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Carole King composed the melodies and harmonies, Gerry Goffin wrote the lyrics.
Writing using the method of self-harm is unproductive, unhealthy, cliche and limiting. Writing in the style of senses is emotional, real, creative, engaging and all around, more fun.
So why are you trying to hurt yourself?
Chris Glyde is a vocal coach, guitar teacher, lyricist and songwriting coach based in Rochester, New York. His approach to music and teaching are simple - master the instrument, but be an artist. Mastery is for options, not showing off.
Glyde maintains two web sites, one geared towards voice and one towards guitar.
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