Occasionally in a songwriting workshop, when I’ve pointed out a weak lyric or poor melody, someone has replied, “But that’s the way the Holy Spirit gave it to me.” My first thought is usually, “Then the Holy Spirit isn’t a very good songwriter.”
Our songs are not “inspired” in the same way Scripture is INSPIRED. Every word of Scripture is God-breathed; we can’t make the same claim for our song lyrics. That D minor 7 chord in the chorus is not the one and only chord the angels are using in heaven.
I’ve recently been trying to write a funeral song for Sovereign Grace Music’s “Resurrection” project. So far I’ve sent in at least 6 different versions. Finally last night I started from scratch and completely changed the lyrics and music. After I sent it in, my friends Bob Kauflin and Sal Oliveri each got back to me suggesting alternative melodies to mine (and they were both better than mine).
Songwriting is primarily about rewriting.
If a song doesn’t immediately grab someone – if they say they think they’ll have to “get used to it,” it’s probably not that good. Don’t defend your song like you defend the inerrancy of Scripture. Go ahead, you can change it. You can actually scribble out the words and write new ones.
So write, rewrite, then rewrite again. Play it for someone. Then rewrite some more.
photo by Olivander