Writing a song is always a very interesting and exciting process. You know, you have a simple idea of what you want to say, perhaps just a single word, phrase, a sentence or even some inenarrable thoughts that just float around your mind, and in a couple of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months or even years in some cases, you have a fully written document that explicitly states what you thoughts were, what you wanted to say. It always feels surreal, creating something so magical from absolutely nothing. For this reason, you always want to give it your best shot.
You see, every song is a lettered and musical representation of those persons whose names are attributed to it. They are what listeners get to meet before meeting you in person. Some listeners may never get that luxury of seeing the writers and performers of their favorite songs. So the perception a song gives is the perception they hold in mind of the personality of it’s creator. Simply put, your song is you, in words and melody, and it’s in your best interest to always put out the best version of you, yourself, and your songwriting.
As a songwriter, it is a habit to constantly be in search of song ideas, most especially from your own experiences. And like it is stated above, some songs manifest far quicker than others. But whichever way it comes, what’s important is that every song written has to be your best writing. It is a fact that every writer is unique in their own way, by virtue of their individually unique experiences and memories. But one thing is common amongst all; everybody’s memories sink so deep into their minds, and your best writing lies in these auspiciously secluded depths.
This is your most important job, mastering the art of diving into these deep places. This is because most aspects of lyric writing are technical, and the stronger your skills, the better expressive your writing will be. Learning the art of diving deep helps in improving the way you express your creative ideas and finding your own unique writing voice and vision. One technique that surely helps in achieving this, is known as Object Writing.
Object writing is a very important and useful tool to generate and extract great songwriting ideas using information from our senses. It is a writing exercise that focuses on describing an object and any associated events using all your senses. The technique was first identified and expatiated by Berklee College of Music professor and songwriting expert Pat Pattison, who defined and created the term in his 1995 book, Writing Better Lyrics.
Object writing, which can also be called Sense-bound writing, is direct and simple. An object is picked and focused on with all your senses. The senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, organic and kinesthetic. Everything felt when that particular object is thought about is then explained explicitly, with no holds barred. The beauty of this is that while writing, you draw into your own personal experiences with that object. They are your own unique thoughts, but anyone who reads them, will understand them and live those experiences like you have, travelling through your senses and memories.
Object writing employs all of our senses. In the above paragraph however, we made mention of seven of them. The first five are very familiar to you of course, while the last two may be a bit new. Organic senses can be best described as the senses that emanate from our inner body functions. Things like pulse, heartbeat, muscle tension, breathing, aches around the body, cramps, etc. are categorized into the Organic sense.
Kinesthetic or motion sense defines the relationship between your body, the environment around you, and your sense of motion. For example, actions like falling, crawling, spinning, or sensations like feeling dizzy, feeling free, feeling trapped, having a blurred vision sit comfortably under this categorization.
Like we noted, when engaging in object writing, all your senses are used. Most times when we’re asked to describe an object, we explain just it’s visual properties. We ignore how it probably tastes, what smell it gives off, what it tastes like at every part, what it feels like when touched, and even how those objects make us feel. Object writing aims to show what is happening, not just to tell it. It aims to improve the way our listeners or readers can experience our experiences by stimulating their own senses. It aims to help us dive deep into the vaults of our senses.
First thing is to randomly select an object and write about it. Think deeply about everything the object says to you, anything you can capture from your senses, or remember from your memories. Write everything that comes to mind freely, it doesn’t have to be pretty. Rhyme, rhythm and completeness of the sentences is sincerely unimportant. Typos can be ignored, just let your mind, imagination and pen wander wherever they wish to go.
Since object writing is meant to be sense-bound, it will help to scribble at the top of your writing sheets the seven senses just as a subtle guide. Occasionally looking back up to them will help make sure that you’re referencing and using all the senses required to write. This helps you dig deeper to the crux of your memories. It is also not important that you must stick with the object as the topic of your writing. Wherever your senses take you, follow them. You don’t have to stay loyal to the topic.
Object writing is an exercise, and for it to be effective in the long term, it is important that it is done consistently. To maintain this kind of consistency, and reap the benefits of object writing in huge dividends, it is best done for ten minutes only, at the beginning of each day. Writing first thing in the morning wakes up the inner writer in you, keeping your mind active enough to observe everything that happens throughout your day. It is also very important that you set a timer for ten minutes, as this will make sure you don’t exceed this time limit. The task will remain manageable for the long run. In its principle, object writing is a short exercise that is supposed to help you engage all of your senses. It is like a morning workout you use to stay in shape.
Practicing sense bound writing can also be done in a group. One object is picked, and other writers can dive into a timed writing session. When the time is up, everyone stops and each person reads their own notes to the group. It will be interesting to see that one object can produce hundreds of ideas that are very different from each other, and are unique to each writer. In a good group, it is expected that the level of writing gets very high and deep fast. If done in rounds, the best writing of a particular round will set the standard for the next round.
Practicing using sense-bound writing is a good thing. It's a powerful tool for involving your listeners in your song, and it will often generate song ideas or interesting lines. When you do find such gems in your writing, save them in a separate location. Cataloguing your good stuff helps you have a good place to look for interesting ideas when you need them.
While this is a very good result to take out of object writing, it’s main purpose is to deepen your writing capabilities, and make it easier for you to instinctively reach your own unique sense pool, where all the good stuff is located. This will make it quicker to write excellent lyrics, and create a stronger connection with your audience and listeners.