Give me 5 minutes and I’ll show you how to instantly find unique and interesting details to put into your lyrics.
The technique is called Object Writing and it’s so ridiculously easy that you’ll be pissed you didn’t know about it sooner. I learned it from Pat Pattison.
Here’s how it works:
First, gather your materials. You’ll need tools for writing like a computer or pen and paper. You’ll want a thesaurus or dictionary or any book that you have lying around. Object Writing works best when you have a timer.
Second, open the book you chose earlier and randomly pick any word. Alternatively, you could write about any object you see around you.
Finally, write about the word you picked using the following guidelines.
- Write from your senses (touch, taste, sound, smell, sight). In other words, avoid abstract ideas. Keep it real.
- Write with a timer. Keep the time short. 2 to 5 minutes is best. 10 minutes max.
- Don’t stop writing. It doesn’t have to rhyme or be in complete sentences. Keep writing rapid-fire.
That’s it. It’s simple. Now here’s why it works.
Sensory language is what connects the listeners to your writing. It follows the writing principle “show, don’t tell.” If you want your song to speak to your listener’s emotions, then you have to use language that resonates in the body. Emotions are embodied. You feel emotions. Emotions aren’t ideas that you think about. They are experiences. And experiences are real. So keep your language real and concrete. This is especially true for verses. Choruses can be meta to your verses. They can talk about the verse or the idea of the song. But your verses are the blood of the song. They live and breathe and the language should reflect that.
Object writing is the tool to develop your unique perspective. Only you can make the connection between an orange maple leaf and the smell of your lover’s wool sweater. With object writing, you tap into your personal experiences and memories and find your own unique perspective about life and the meaning of things. Object writing comes from your heart.
When you need quick stimulation, object writing allows you to dive in to the depths of your experience and pull out the relevant details that will make your writing interesting. It’s instant. And it gives you more choice because you have a vault of wonderful details to consider on the other side of your 5 minutes.
Here’s what an object writing session could look like:
Crunching under my feet I look down and see leaves of gold, burnt orange, and blood red. I imagine nostalgic moments of youth in the fall – argyle sweaters and jean jackets. Walks meant to soak up the last of the luke-warm sun and to hold hands with a young girl. Football and underage drinking. Parties too cold to be outside but too much in love to care. The leaves fall from the trees and they seem to stop in mid air as I imagine a September wedding…time stood still…I look around at the guests and they’re motionless, smiling, frozen in a conversation, and I feel blessed to be alive witnessing this moment of wonder and awe at the gifts of the heart. It’s my wedding day and the woman who these people are here to help me celebrate with is hiding in the house. Perhaps she’s peaking out of a window and maybe time is standing still for her too. And I wonder if she was the girl that some lucky boy held hands with in the fall of her youth. I can see them happy walking among the leaves on the sidewalk. The air is crisp and fresh. The sun falls to the west and my heart rises in the east. The past is romantic and the future is hopeful. The present is transfixed in an absolute moment of this – a celebration of love and happiness. A union of leaves to ground and separation from the tree. The aging bark is flexible and sways in the breeze and the scene begins to move again…leaves slowly falling, voices laughing, glasses clink and hearts open to the possibility of forever and ever.
See how simple it is?
Object Writing Hacks:
- Start your day with 5 minutes of object writing. Once your inner writer is awake, it stays with you all day.
- Object write from all parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.
- Whenever you get stuck in a song, stop what you are doing and object write for a couple of minutes.
- The more specific the picture, the more emotion it creates.
- Before you begin, write your senses across the top of the page: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, body, motion.
- Ignore rhyme, rhythm, and sentence structure. Your writing doesn’t have to be polished at this stage. Let it be ugly.
- Let the object take you wherever it wants. You don’t have to stay focused on the object. Follow the thoughts that arise.
Go ahead and take 2 minutes to do some quick object writing right here in the comments section. I’ll even get it started. 🙂