How to Finish: The Other Hardest Part of Songwriting

If you’ve read my post on how to start, you know that your writing can flow as soon as you can bring yourself to actually start the process. Still, even if you’re halfway through, it can be easy to hit roadblocks and have trouble finishing your song. Whether it’s a matter of logistics, writer’s block or self-doubt, here are some ideas to get you finishing more songs.

Set a timer

I am a huge fan of using timers to write songs. You can use a timer to get the ideas going, but try setting a timer for thirty minutes or an hour. Aim to finish the song in that time, even if a couple of lines aren’t quite right.

Use filler lines

Often when I’m writing, I just can’t think of the right lines at that moment. Sometimes I might have the energy and time to sit for an hour on that one line. Most of the time, I use a filler line and underline it to remind myself this isn’t quite right. Two scenarios occur from this: one, I think about the line as I’m doing dishes or vacuuming and a better line will come to mind; two, I realize the filler line was just fine, and I’m being too hard on myself.

Set a time every day to write

I don’t often feel inspired to write and have to sit down at my desk and get started to get the inspiration flowing. This also works for finishing songs. When I write, I usually start with unfinished songs and see if I can figure out some new ideas for them. I finish songs very efficiently this way, and it also sometimes gives me ideas for new songs.

Have an accountability partner

Find a friend or colleague and ask them if they will keep you accountable for finishing songs. Set a deadline each week or month where you two will have a meeting and hear the work you did. If you have a songwriter friend who is also struggling, this could be a great way to both finish your songs and spend time together.

Write songs with a co-writer

I can’t recommend co-writing enough. There was a long time before I felt comfortable to co-write, but the key is to write with as many people as you can until you find the ones who click with your style and pace. The other person in the equation keeps me on track and doesn’t let me get lost in my head or hung up on one line. Choose a time each week that you can write together and keep going until the song is finished. 

Get some feedback on your song and get inspired again

Receiving feedback is a really good external motivator. Have a mentor or songwriter friend give you feedback on your song that is beyond saying, “I love it!” Having someone else delve into your song can really give you that push to keep going, as well as new ideas.

Sit back and think about your song

Maybe it’s not that you can’t finish the song, but the idea isn’t clear enough. Sit back and look at your song from a different angle: what is this song about and what am I trying to say? Do the lyrics and music support the main idea? Is there enough movement in the storyline of my song? Is there a conflict and resolution that gives the song drive and purpose?

It’s okay if this isn’t your best song

Realizing that not every song has to be your best song can be liberating. Some of us will know this thoroughly and write bad songs all the time. Ed Sheeran has said he needs to finish his bad songs to get them out before he can write a good one. Some of us feel disheartened by the fact that the current song they’re writing wasn’t as good as the last one, or even the one before that. This is completely fine and it’s still okay to finish that song, even if you’re the only one to hear it and love it.

Finishing a song can be difficult!

For some, finishing songs come as natural as checking it off a grocery list. For the rest of us, I hope at least one of these ideas is helpful in getting your music finished. It might take an hour or maybe a few days, but the sooner you finish, the sooner you can write the next song—and become a better songwriter.



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