1. There are no rules.
Sure there are formulas and things you can generally apply to make your songs “better” but overall there are no rules. Experiment. Be crazy. New genres are created all the time so don’t try too hard to fit in.
2. Trust your inspiration
Many people will tell you you should write a song more like this way or that way (faster, slower, grungier, mellower, more ‘poppy’), but ultimately the most authentic representation you can offer is to write what you’re inspired and passionate about writing. If you have been inspired to write a song it’s because there are people out there that will appreciate it.
3. Listen to every and all styles of writing
From Broadway to heavy metal, classical to rap all genres have their own gems to offer you. The best way to expand your songwriting capabilities or rekindle your love for songwriting is to listen to all styles of music.
4. Take breaks
If you’re in the midst of writing a song and have hit a wall, take a break. Often when I’m in the creative mode the times that new inspiration shows up is when I’m walking to get a glass of water or doing something somewhat mindless. When stuck take a walk and let the creative juices stew for a little while before returning to your song.
5. Record EVERYTHING
Document every idea whether it be two notes of a melody or a phrase that caught your attention in daily conversation. Make sure you take note write away (or as soon as possible). This is also important when you’ve written part of a song that in the moment you think isn’t worth a crap. You may just listen back in a year or two with a fresh perspective and fall in love with it. That’s happened to me several times. Bonus points if you add titles to your recordings.
6. Dare to suck
You’re always gonna look back and think you used to suck, that’s a good thing. It means you’ve evolved. Savor those gratuitous songs that you used to write and notice how much you’ve improved over time.
7. Talking about gratuitous - halve those intros and instrumentals
Although there are no hard and fast rules, 9 times out of 10 if you’re just starting out writing songs this is applicable to you. Get to the meat and bones of the song and make the aperitifs what they should be: brief.
8. There are no real overnight successes
People live most of their lives as a “nobody” before they’re a “somebody”. During their “nobody” period they spend time experimenting, honing their craft and developing whatever skills they now have as someone who is in the limelight. And if they haven’t been doing this their stardom is short lived.