Songwriting Exercise: Structured Object Writing

Nearly every writer has tried object writing at some point in their lives. The idea is usually very similar every time: when you wake up in the morning, grab your tea or coffee and sit down with a timer and a notebook. Pick an object and free-write for ten minutes about it. Maybe at the end, you’ll have a song idea.

There’s no denying that it gets the creativity flowing, but personally, I’m not a fan. I’ve tried it when every songwriting class I took in college (and some non-writing classes!) required doing object writes for a week straight. I’m a morning person and I just couldn’t make it a habit. I would enjoy it once and slog through the rest of the times, and even now as I write songs on a daily basis, I do not object write every day (though I respect everyone who does).

Instead, I created something else that looks a lot like object writing, but it is flexible as well as being structured. This might help you if you’re not a fan of only writing about objects and/or you just need something structured like I do. You could also call this structured brainstorming.

Step One: early in the day, preferably with tea or coffee, sit down with your notebook. Turn off those notifications if you can.

Step Two: pick an object, but you can also pick a person, a situation, an event, a time, a place, a scenario, etc.—no need to stick to something you can hold in your hand.

Step Three: Write. There are options here, but in any of them, don’t worry about using full sentences or rhyming.

1. Just write, as you would in any object writing.

2. Directed writing; write to these prompts rather than free-writing.

*Ask yourself the who, what, when, where, why and how of the chosen topic.
*Use the five basic senses: touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste
*Use proprioception: the sense of space, the sense of movement and position in our limbs and muscles, the sense of force
*Use vestibular sense: balance and movement
*Use synesthesia: the association with colours with sights and smells
*Use emotional sense: what does this feel like and what kind of emotions come to mind?

The most important part about songwriting exercises is finding the ones that work for you. If traditional object writing makes you creative, do that. If you’re looking for something new, try this out and see if it gives you some new ideas for your songs.

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