How can I create more from imagination rather than seeking ideas elsewhere ?


I wish to draw on my own well of imagination when creating music. I’ve thought about how it could work.

I’ve seen an example in art called iterative writing, where you draw something without reference, then build upon that by making another iteration and develop it to something pleasing to yourself or interesting somehow.

I feel there is an anxiety in me to seek more novel/different ways of approaching music that I spend more time seeking these things rather than actually getting down and simply creating, using these ideas in a self directed way.

Does anyone have any advice ??


"iterative writing" equivalent is noodling on an instrument until a riff or a progression or "something more pleasing" pops out, which it will. I improvise a lot which is how a lot eventually comes out: sometimes ready-made, sometimes with lots of editing. For first attempts at an instrumental album, I surrounded myself with photographs of what I was trying to express, and played to them. Currently I'm creating music to words, not setting lyrics as such, but fragments, odd bits of poetry, others' words too.Sometimes a fragment or a full melody occurs; I try to write it down, though I've been very remiss in not carrying a small MS book AND pencil about with me. Getting better at it tho'.


Running iterations of music through PaulXStretch can be a fun diversion. I did it with my "Deep Diving" sequence of instrumentals recently. The app is free, and produces really interesting results. Ideal for #slothcore.


Are you sure that iterative writing is a way to more creativity and originality? I always understood the iterative methods as ways to overcome perfectionism and procrastination. A means to push yourself towards finishing things completely instead of making one half-finished thing after another.

When perfectionists start creating things, their tendency is this: They'll pick out one mini detail, a verse, a motif, an instrument, whatever, and start working it to the death. After days and days, this one single detail will be very good, but the whole rest of the product will be incomplete or even nonexistent. Instead of tackling these missing pieces, the perfectionists will revisit the already good piece again and again - they start overoptimizing and procrastinating. At some point, the perfectionist will get annoyed, lose interest, or despair, and give up, leaving behind a single astounding, but incomplete and thus unusable detail, while all the rest is an unfinished mess.

My understanding of the iterative processes in any field is this: In each iteration, take the result from the last iteration. Compare it to what you want to have at the end. Identify the one thing that bothers you most, that is the most important next thing to adjust on the path to that goal. Then, in this iteration, add or fix or change this one thing. In music, "one thing" might be adding a bridge, designing a chorus, adding drums, refining a solo, etc. A single iteration is finished when you've done this one thing, in a minimal acceptable way, and your product is in a state where you can present it to others, and it conveys the overall idea. The whole process ends when you are satisfied with your last iteration's result, or you find no more things to change in a next iteration.

The advantage of this process is that you change the product in small increments. Each increment adds value to the product, makes it better, more complete, whatever.


I like object writing (aka sensory writing) a lot as a place to start from. You just sit down with a blank notebook, and a topic like door (or you can generate one here, You write down anything that comes into your head focusing on senses especially - sight, sound, taste, touch, smell and movement. Write for 6 minutes (or some other predetermined amount of time) just keep your hand moving, without letting your brain get involved. Do this for a few days, then pick one of the pieces you wrote, and pull some lines that you like, stack them up and build a little section. you don't have to know if it's a chorus or a verse...see if you feel like singing some little melody to go along with it....Then put it away for another day. Just getting in the habit of playing without any push to succeed can be really great. Like a montessori preschool.


Sort of similar to @nancycunning's object writing, I create music to images or ideas in my mind. Often I try to "describe the image or idea" with sound - sort of trying to paint a sonic picture, if you will. In a way, this is similar to the approach mentioned by @timfatchen because it is purely improvisational in its methodology. Often, I'll meditate on an idea, image or feeling, then simply pick up my guitar, hit record in my DAW, close my eyes, & start playing. The results are often quite surprising.

See You In The Shadows…


My music is a little more confessional in nature, but I think I try to capture feelings or impressions I'm processing with music. If I can't be honest or interesting musically, I try to work on my lyricism and word play. Whatever is vibing, leads. Do syllables dictate the rhythm, or does a cool riff or chord progression lead the way? It varies.

I like word association like Jeff Tweedy talks about - lists of 10 verbs you would do within a certain profession or as your character, then 10 objects you can see around you. After that you draw lines between verbs and nouns until there are none left to match.

I like that that strategy lets me be objective, learn about different subjects I'm curious about, and let my mind wander as I try to pick and choose which words go together and what images that brings up for me. I also like that I can do it in one of my 10 minute breaks at work. 10/10/10 Would recommend.

Cheers for an interesting question and good luck on the journey 👍


Emphasising @candle 's admonition "hit record". And if you are using midi instruments or notation, make sure that "record" includes MIDI recording too! The last time I seriously didn't include the MIDI recording--I used the keyboard's native recorder--I came to bitterly regret never being able again to reconstruct what I had done in a layered improvisational set that turned into gorgeous music. That I can't reproduce or edit. (My very first FAWM2007 #1, you want to hear it, google ' "La Seye" Tim Fatchen ' )


Some great ideas and ways forward here.
It's really so simple you could drop dead getting it "right".
You find a compelling moment (a kiss), idea (people hurt ) event (birthday, heartbreak, apocolype) etc. Something Find me a great popular song that doesn't.
You use every skill in your arsenal to convey that x to a listener kind or crazy enough to enter for 3 minutes your "stage of conveyance".
Imagining how to convey that "something" beyond what you have in your arsenal may challenge you to seek those skills to reach (or at least create the illusion of) that "better", or seek others who can bring that or advice to help you reach that, put it away until you can, give up and take up banana bending, etc...
Once you find the heartbeat, even as a really vague sketch outline, the song will negotiate with you what it needs, what you can give it and fetch it. Great songs speak to you and are very specific and demanding.

Does that help any? LOL....


I don't think imagination can just create something out of nothing.

But take two things you like. Heck, take three things, four, five, six... then combine them by keeping the stuff you like and discarding the rest. That's creative right there.


For me I've found many of my best lines or melodies have come when I was out walking or waking up in the middle of the night. Something about not sitting in front of that white paper or behind a musical instrument. It seems my mind was in a totally relaxed state, not even a creative one. So I might suggest taking your phone and walking around town recording what comes or walking in a beautiful place being in the flow. You can always edit later in the studio. Another suggestion would be keeping a dream journal and getting some song lines and starts from that.


Interesting topic. I keep a file on my desktop called Song and Lyric Ideas. Any time I think of a line or a phrase that intrigues me, I add it to the file. It's now 44 pages long, filled with snippets. Sometimes I read them and I think, "Huh?" and other times, it sparks some more lines and a lyric happens. Like @djevans53 , I get many of my best ideas when I'm not looking. On a walk, or at 3am. I keep a notepad by the bed to jot these phrases down because there's no way I'll remember in the morning. It's been a godsend. Lots of times, I just zone out and wonder about things, and lots of lyric ideas come from that. I think the key is letting the ideas come to me, rather than me trying to manufacture something. (That comes later and it's called Revising!)


I think I agree with @ianuarius that even if you try not to use outside sensory information to come up with an idea we are still using outside sensory information that we have attained in the past. In that sense, everything we come up with is, in a way, based on our experiences.

If you're question is more along the lines of how to come up with a unique angle then there are several methods that might work. But I'm not entirely sure if that's what you're going for.

As an example, when we skirmish we get a title/prompt to write from. But there are many different interpretations of that title. And one of the things I really enjoyed about them (back when I was pretty consistent in participating) was trying to take the most original angle. I loved it when folks said they wouldn't have thought about approaching it from a particular perspective.


I wasn’t clear on my question before. That’s down to me for poor wording.

I mean making music without seeking out music/art/ideas online. Trusting my ideas are fine and unique enough because they’re from me ( not going into the whole each person had unique experiences and gifts to give stuff )

Maybe this should have been said earlier, but I mean: searching for new ideas. Instead of this = trusting my own ideas and that I can come up with things

Might be described as a mindset rather than pulling out ideas from thin air.
But I do wonder, what does the word imagination mean for you guys ? @ianuarius @tcelliott could be mere different assigned personal meanings to the word, or I’m using the wrong word to describe what I mean etc


A lot of good techniques have been shared that are along the lines of what I mean. Perhaps I mean being “okay with my ideas and work being good enough “ and “ not striving to be unrealistically unique “ I guess ?


Sorry for multipost = Im wanting to trust my own ideas more, instead of thinking I need to find new ideas from the internet to include in my music ( which I seek online to the detriment of my health )

I don’t mean cutting out all influences and sources and input from everywhere which is not possible. Ideas can come from anywhere. I don’t want to excessively search for them anymore and be happy my ideas are enough. So I can then work on my skills instead of looking for them outside of me ( procrastination ? )


So then...
Every time you get the urge to look online for ideas, just don't, and pick up an instrument instead?


thats a good idea for habit forming, didnt think of that
turning the urge to seek instead, to = pick up instrument
ill try that
might be as simple as that or not, but ill try it and see! cheers!


Stick a Post-It note on your computer that says, "Play your instrument".


I'm still not 100% clear on what you're aiming at.

I guess I would say that you should read books, watch movies, engage in good conversation and then write down and/or record every good idea that comes your way. Or even bad ideas. Sometimes they turn into good ones if you let them fester long enough.


Plan 7 days (or more) of meals at local establishments during busy periods. Take your journal. Quietly and slowly enjoy your meal while casually (and unobtrusively) observing everyone around you. And imagine their story.

The old guy in the corner nursing a single small cup of coffee. Is he homeless and destitute? Or wealthy beyond belief but very Scrooge-ish in his spending?

The group of teen girls talking loudly and laughing. Are they on spring break? Or did they just shoplift at that upscale clothing store next door?

The woman speaking broken English to the waiter. Did she recently arrive, a refugee from a war-torn country? Or has she lived here her entire life but remained steeped in the culture and language of her parents who are extremely religious and dismissive of this new country's ways?

It just goes on and on. Do this on the subway or train or bus! Did that rough looking young man just murder someone or is he an incognito rockstar?

As you make your observations/guesses write down notes that could later inspire lyrics or music!


And if ya don't feel like going out you can do the same thing with movies! Watch scenes on YouTube or do a Google image search for "famous movie stills" then make up your own story for what is happening.


I may have lost track a bit of the question but if i hear it right its about looking to get something a bit different. The slightly trite sounding answer is, if you want something different you have to try a different or multiple different approaches. Suggestions like @fuzzy and @johnstaples are 2 great ideas. To write consistently and try and keep things fresh is never easy, my friends think i just sit and write loads of songs through some mystical ability. Truth be i work really really hard at it! I have literally dozens of approaches, like @greengrassgirl i have pages of snippets i also have loads of music ideas. I observe and keep notes, i noodle on guitars, i try playing different instruments, i experiment in non natural to me genres. I read poetry, famous quotes, i study unusual chord progressions. Most is preemptive stuff waiting for its day in the sun, with the odd bit of inspiration. As Nick Cave said, songwriting is 10% inspiration and 90 perspiration , he went on to say , everyday i get up put my work clothes on and go to the office ( read get out of bed put shorts on and go to my studio). But yes Even after all my attempts i feel stale and too samey sometimes, but i just keep plugging away trying new things.


I feel like it's important to open ALL avenues to inspiration. I have been doing a lot of internal random lyric writing this summer. I get some music going, then I begin putting random word combinations together until something pops out.

I listen to the words and music in my head and try to get it down in some format. Sometimes there's something there. Sometimes I have a melody in my head that's kind a cool, but by the time I get near an instrument it has evaporated.

I used to get a lot of lyrics from walking around in public. I've always liked taking long walks. I saw a kid with his mother, the kid was wearing a furry monster suit with cute little ears. I thought... what if the work clothes I have to wear are my monster suit, so I blend in with the other monsters? That was a song (brought to life in a fun collab with @nancyrost). Another time I was near a mother/grandmother with a kid, and the mother/grandmother said, "Well, we can't WALK to New Jersey" and there was a song title.

In FAWM and 5090 I strive to have heightened awareness of all inputs. Music, words, ideas. Open your ears, heart and mind to everything around you.

It could be something on the internet too, of course, but for me those inspirations are fewer, because there are only a few/small range of sites I really look at. Well, a lot. But also, it's kinda familiar and limited. I don't find surprises in my usual surfing very often it seems.


i get up at 5am..see my wife off to work and my daughter off to school. it is now 7.30 and i have been itching to get to work, thats all the inspiration i need. first thing is to record the song i wrote yesterday, then i post it and listen to whatever is new on the board and make comments on those i have a reaction to. now i am itching to write a song. ideas have been running through my heaf all morning. soon after i finish, my daughter comes home from school and we
have lunch. someimes i will watch a movie whille she does her homework my wife gets home at 7 and i put them both to bed, and spend the next four hours listening to music, reading and communicating with friends. i never play my instrument except when recording, and never sit in front of a blank piece of paper.

but to answer the question of where songs from. my songs come from music. in ancient greek theatre, music was performed before the play begain, as it was believed that the music was ab incocation of the play, it brought the spirits of the play tothe stage where they possessed the actors who acted out their story,. the song forms inside me and then i draw it out witj the music.


There are so many fantastic comments already, but I will add my thoughts as well. Be open. Accepting that you can learn something from every single person or furry creature you meet can inspire lots of ideas. Be sensitive. Be curious. Be humble. Get out and travel when you can. Read. Never stop learning and growing…
Meditate. Exercise. Pursue other artistic outlets as they feed off each other. Listen to stuff that makes you feel good…that makes you stop and say, “damn, I wish I wrote this song”!! Then go make your own version. Being open is very important I think. On the big 5 personality traits type of openness.


Beautiful thread and very interested ideas and suggestions. For me personally, being here helps with my inspiration. There is so much to read, to hear, to discover that I just feel inspired. The opportunity to create something knowing that it might be of interest to someone on this site fuels my imagination and I start creating thanks to the atmosphere, what I experience through this site and of course in life in general. I can't thank you all enough.


Write a story and score it ( I'm totally serious) the best way I've found inspiration for writing more is to create a world and write for that specific world. It could be a simple story, it could be a complex story. But it really does help.


@chldomn5 Your life is your life and it's interesting because of your take on things. Don't disregard it.

Think back to your week. What's the thing that's been on your mind for like 10 times? Write a song about that. And it doesn't have to be literal. "I went to the dentist" can turn into "Gingerbread house of the witch", if you explore the same experiences you went through.


I'll second @aeye's recommendation. Twice I've written songs to a story that only existed in my mind. The last set of five or six was intended to be released as an EP but I never got around to it. Speaking of which, "I Never Got Around To It: The uninteresting story of how I never accomplished much of anything" just might be the title of my autobiography. Also, it might be a song. (See what I did there?)


Hehe yeah that’s a funny title and honest @tcelliott im interesting in reading that
@ianuarius thanks for your encouragement, that’s what I’m aiming to do creation wise more often now
@aeye i tried this the other night and it got me interested in doing concept albums again. I’ve only ever done one but this is an interesting take and it helped me get something down
Lots of good advice here. I’m stuck for choice! Lol


I start every song by clearing my mind. Totally empty. It's like a warmup for a meditation, as I just need to touch it, I don't need to stay there. When I'm writing to a prompt (from a skirmish, my children, some random prompt list, or something in my line-of-sight), I repeat the name of what I'm singing about, and then I keep going. When I'm not writing to a prompt, I become the mouth of the that empty space and sing something in to being. (I regularly don't know what I'm singing about until mid-song.)

To tap in to my creativity, I sing to the end of the song, and then I keep going. I find my muse only becomes interested in what I'm doing when I'm running toward a brick wall at speed.

The thing about creativity, though, is that it isn't just your muse you have to deal with. You also have to do something about your inner critic. Personally my inner critic is lazy and if I go fast enough he gets winded and waits for me to finish. Most of the time it is an inner critic that complains that things aren't perfect and recommends some new contortions that would definitely solve the issue if they could only be mastered.

Are you pandering to your inner muse or your inner critic?

Remember: You can't surprise your listeners if they never know what to expect. (To surprise listeners, they need to _think_ they know what is coming next.)