Ask Tyler Preston: “How do I become a songwriter?”

Hello ladies and gentlemen, Tyler Preston here, back with another lesson for you. I got a question from a follower over the weekend, which was “Tyler, how do I become a songwriter?”

So in this post we’re going to be talking about how to become a songwriter, and I will discuss a few actionable tips that you can implement today to begin your journey as songwriter. Alright, enough intro. Let’s get to it.

Start with an affirmation and an identity-based goal: say to yourself, I AM a songwriter

Whenever you want to do anything new in your life, you should start with an identity-based goal (credit to Tom Bilyeu of Qwest Nutrition for this concept).

An identity-based goal is where you say to yourself, I want to become a person that ____.

So, how do you become a songwriter?

You become a songwriter by starting with an affirmation and saying to yourself, I am a songwriter.

By making an affirmation like this you, start  to train your brain to think in the positive, ie, to begin from the premise that you already are what you say you are.

Your brain is a mirror and a manifestation machine and a mirror. It takes what you show it, and it spits more of it back out. So whatever thoughts and words you put into your brain, your brain is going to manifest materially for you in your life.

For instance, if you say “I’m broke”, “I’m poor”, “I never have enough money” to yourself all the time while… well, you’re probably going to be broke.

But if you say “I’m making money”, “I make more money every day”, “I am getting rich,” “I’m richer today than I was yesterday”, “I’m always getting richer”, well now you’re going to start to see manifestations of that in your life instead.

Now, of course, that’s an example of mindset training around money. But it’s the same thing when it comes to creativity!

If you sit around and say to yourself  “I’m not creative”, “I don’t know how to be creative”, “being creative is hard”, “being creative is overwhelming”, “being creative is impossible”, etc., that’s going to cause major energy blockages for you.

So start with a positive affirmation for yourself!

Try saying “I am creative. I am a songwriter. I write songs.”

You might feel a little fake saying it at first (that’s imposter syndrome), but do it anyways.

Just say your affirmation, and then take your new identity out into the world with you and start seeing the world as a songwriter.

Practicing looking for stories and seeing the world as a songwriter

It’s like this: You leave your house in the morning, and as you’re leaving you say to yourself I am a songwriter, and I see the world through songwriters’ eyes.

And a funny thing will start to happen. You will start to observe the world, and you’ll start to see all the stories that are taking place around you, day in and day out.

Because that’s what songwriters do. Songwriters are always on the look out for the story behind the event. They are always seeing things and asking, WHY is this the way that is? and what caused that to be this way?

They’re always looking for stories, asking questions, and observing the world… but most importantly, they’re experiencing the world around them fully.

Live a BIG ADVENTUROUS LIFE so you’ll have lots of things to write about

First and foremost, if you’re going to be a songwriter, you’ve got to live BIG so you’ll have something to write about.

So get out there, have fun with your friends, spend time with your family, fall in love, break up, fall in love again, get married, have a baby, move to India, learn to raise wild geese, run the Iditarod, sail around the world, do whatever you want, just go out there and devour a big heaping helping of life and everything the human experience has to offer…

…and then bring those experiences back to your writing desk, sit down with your guitar, recollect your memories in tranquility, and pour all that inspiration into song.

Keep a journal, write everything down

Which brings me to my next point: you’ve got to write things down.

A songwriter is no different from a poet or any other sort of writer. To be a successful songwriter, you need a regular journaling practice, or at least you need to consistently write down the things that happen to and around you, in order to hone your powers of observation and storytelling.

See something funny? write it down.

Hear something awful? Write it down.

Raad something terrifying in the news? Write it down.

Experience something amazing? Write it down. 

Always be observing. Observe the world around you. Observe your thoughts and feelings about it. Ask lots of questions, especially why, and go deep into your questions and look for the stories that are embedded in everything all around you. 

And then write them down.

This way, you’ve got plenty of raw material to work with. Writing things down in your journal or whatever is the process of gathering the metaphorical marble that you’re going to carve into your statue of song.

Be consistent, show up daily

Once you’ve done all of the above: you’re observing things around you, you’re writing things down, you’re keeping a journal, you write down lyrical ideas and song titles and things like that, all you have left to do is get to work.

How? It’s easy.

Just sit down with your guitar and start writing a song.

Don’t make it any more difficult than it has to be, just sit down, strum a couple of chords, and start looking for a tune to match, and then start wedging some words in there.

If you do that on a daily basis you’re going to make progress as a songwriter. Guaranteed.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be every day— but you do need to set aside time to write songs regularly. Now personally I would recommend every day. But everybody’s got different schedules, so figure out what works for you.

The important part is that you put your songwriting time  on your calendar.

Mne of my favorite books is called The One Thing. It’s by a guy named Gary Keller, and one of his key strategies for getting things done within this book is to timeblock your most important activities. Basically it means that  set aside time on a daily or weekly basis that you’re going to work on this thing that matters to you, and oyu put it on the calendar to make it real.

So that means, if you want to become a songwriter, then you need to set aside time to practice being a songwriter!

The most important thing isn’t actually doing it daily— it’s just doing it consistently, week in and week out. And if you don’t have time to work on songwriting every day, I totally get it.

I work at a whole ‘nother job in addition to doing these videos and working on my blog and I actually don’t work on this blog every day. I work on it a couple days a week and then I roll stuff out on a drip schedule.

But I DO show up EVERY WEEK for my content creation timeblock and create the content that I’m going to put up for you.

That’s the point of time blocks. They tell you when to show up, and make it okay for you to set aside all other distractions and focus on your One Thing (songwriting, content creation, whatever) on a consistent basis.

Don’t wait for inspiration, just get to work

Don’t wait for inspiration. You need to just show up and get to work.

You’re not always going to have great ideas bursting out of you. You’re not always going to be filled with inspiration and motivation.

But I’m here to tell you that you don’t need those. Not all the time, at least. All you need to become a songwriter is consistency, discipline, and focus.

If you have the discipline to sit your butt down and start writing even when you don’t feel like it, I promise that the Muse will show up and you will be creative in spite of yourself.

So just sit down, and get to work.

Great songwriters steal

Final point: if you want to become a songwriter, you have to remember that great writers steal. Or at least they borrow from each other liberally.

So, as you listen to the artists you love, keep observing! Listen for things to write songs about, listen for cool chord progressions to use, or rhythms or song structures or whatnot.

Anytime you hear a song that you wish you wrote, put it on a list. Just start a little “Inspiration” playlist on your Spotify or your Apple Music or whatever you use.

And then every once in a while, when you sit down to write, break that bad boy out and ask yourself: why do I like this song so much?

And then try and reverse engineer what you love about those songs. Borrow the chords, borrow the structure, borrow the Rhythm, borrow some of the lyrics, borrow the topics.

Honestly, that’s going to get you 90% of the way to kickass songwriter status right there.

Because trust me: great writers are not just writing in a closet all by themselves. They’re out in the world, they’re listening to each other’s work, and constantly borrowing ideas and improving on them. And you should be doing the same.

And that, my friend, is how you become a songwriter.

As always. If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to sign up for the newsletter— I’ve got more posts coming out every day, but the newsletter is exclusively for subscribers and features info you won’t get anywhere else.

If you’ve got questions or any ideas for an upcoming post, feel free to me up on Twitter @MrTylerPreston or shoot me an email: tyler@tylerpreston.com. Always love to hear from you.

Until next time my friendly friends: good luck, have fun, and happy strumming!

Tyler Preston

Tyler Preston

National touring singer-songwriter & music teacher. I'm a country boy at heart, but I paid my dues singin' the blues. Find me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.