On Songwriting | Musings On How To Write a Song

An Intention to Listen

An Intention to Listen

Ideas are everywhere, but why is it that some folks find them everywhere — and apparently effortlessly — while others of us struggle? And sometimes, even the most creative among us have a “dry spell” where nothing new, fresh, stimulating or hummable rolls along.

What changed… the person, or the world around them?

Holding a conscious intention to observe is the key to noticing. The intention to listen is an act of preparation. Like packing the right gear for a fishing trip (not too easy to catch a fish in the river without a rod), adopting a mindset that prepares you to “catch” ideas when they come along is essential to landing the big ones.

Keen observation, sensitive listening and emotional insights are impossible, however, if one’s mind is stuck in the past or worried about the future. And maybe that’s why sometimes otherwise wildly creative folks experience “wandering in the wilderness” periods from time to time, possibly abandoning one’s present to rehash the joy or pain of yesterday, or the worry or anticipation of tomorrow. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying, “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”


In one sense, the intention to be present is very simple to implement. You just have to be where you are and pay attention. And even on days when this approach to life catches no song-worthy ideas, it will enrich your day anyway.

The intention to listen is the opposite of walking through life oblivious to the details of the present — the very things that make the journey so gratifying and precious. In that sense, maybe songwriters enjoy a more engaged and poetic life than most.