Fifty Prompts; Zero Excuses

Here are fifty songwriting prompts, put into five different categories according to their focus and intention. Use them to practice songwriting, develop skills, and as diving boards into the creative pool. I hope they’re fun, thought-provoking, and most of all, that they help you get inspired and singing a little bit easier 🙂

Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

General Prompts

To get the creative juices flowing, without making you feel like you’re doing songwriting exercises 😉

  1. Write a song to yourself in a different stage of life, e.g. what would life look like in ten years time? Or what would you tell your teenage self?
  2. Write a song that could be sung at your funeral. (Or your wedding!)
  3. Describe how you feel in a crowded room. Do you feel excited? Anxious? What do you think about?
  4. Write a song to someone you miss. Incorporate memories you have with this person, things you want to do with them, things you want to tell them, etc.
  5. Write about a public holiday or event that’s significant to you. What memories do you have of this holiday? Why is it important to you?
  6. Write to someone you’ve never met, like an ancestor or someone you admire from afar. What would you tell them if you could?
  7. Certain objects and places have a value deeper than monetary. Choose something that has sentimental value to you. What memories does this object conjure? What gives it its significance? How would you feel if you had to let it go?
  8. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week? Write about it!
  9. Write about how you met someone who has impacted you significantly. How have they changed you?
  10. How would your life be different if you lived in another country? If you were in a different social class? If you had a different job?

Describing Settings

These will help you practice showing emotion through description of the setting. I recommend spending some time thinking about how you would feel in these circumstances, what would be around you, then sit down and write a song using what’s around you to portray what you’re feeling.

  1. You’re trying to get your newborn to go to sleep.
  2. You’re about to walk into an interview for your dream job. Deep down, you’re convinced that you won’t get it.
  3. You’re back in high school, and you know that one of your classmates likes you.
  4. You’re about to give an important speech in front of lots of people, and you don’t feel qualified to be the one giving the speech.
  5. You see someone you love for the first time in years!
  6. You make a new friend, but the next time you see them they ignore you.
  7. You’re lying awake at night, and suddenly have a great book idea!  
  8. You’re working a long shift with someone you don’t like.
  9. It’s your first date!
  10. You’re on a long flight, and you notice the attendants are starting to look nervous…

Getting Into Character

These ones are to help make your songs unique and fun by adding characters. This will be like writing a story, and don’t be afraid to act it out or roleplay a bit first.

  1. Write about a character’s struggle from a book/show/film you experienced recently whose story impacted you
  2. Write about a relationship in your life from the other person’s perspective (and show it to them!! *evil laugh* *is totally not going to show them cuz wow that would be embarrassing*)
  3. Write about a day from your pet’s POV. Or your plant’s. Or your cushion’s idk
  4. You’re part of a love-triangle. (Three prompts in one! You can be the person chosen, the one not chosen, or the one choosing.) How do you feel about the other people? How do you act around them? What do they think of you?
  5. Write a cross-generational song to your own generation.
  6. Write a best man’s speech… in song!!
  7. You find out that someone you love has just been admitted to hospital. Write about how you feel, what you tell yourself, and what happens.
  8. You’re a child’s imaginary friend, and they’re starting to forget about you.
  9. You’re getting ready for your daughter’s wedding.
  10. Something you’ve worked on for years is finally starting to come together. Describe this moment!

Poeticising the Mundane (ie making super boring stuff sound profound).

The idea is that you write about something every-day, but make it so poetic and vague that people think you’re describing something deep and insightful.

  1. Write about how your pet, sibling or child treats you, without mentioning who they are to you. (Eg I once wrote about how my dog treats me, but made it sound like I was singing about a contrary lover)
  2. Write to an old imaginary friend or beloved toy from when you were a child. What would you have talked to them about when you were young? How would that change as you get older?
  3. Write about something you struggled to do, and how you overcame it (eg finally connecting a stubborn Bluetooth device to your phone)
  4. Write about sunshine on a cold day, or a cup of ice-cold water after a long run, or falling into bed after an exhausting shift; you get the idea.  
  5. Write about a common mistake or misconception that annoys you and how you wish people would fix it.
  6. Your dog meets another dog on their walk. Turn it into a human love song. (no one will ever know…)
  7. Write about your writers’ block! Turn it into a person; how does it make you feel? What does it do to make you feel this way?
  8. Write a song inspired by a dream you remember.
  9. How do you feel when someone tells an in-joke you’re not a part of? Or when you find out about a party you weren’t invited to?
  10. Write about delicious food 😛

Where to Find More Inspiration

  1. Open a dictionary, find a word and write a song with that word as the title.
  2. Choose an object around you and use it to create a metaphor (eg a tree is a common metaphor for life). Write a song based on this metaphor.
  3. Use an idiom or common saying and write a song based on it (if you’re feeling particularly bored, consider finding one from a different language 😉 )
  4. Take a sentence from a book (or past diary lol) and write a song based on that sentence.
  5. Choose a poem and put it to music, or write some lyrics for music you love.
  6. Google writing prompts (even if they’re for authors, they can still be useful for us songwriters)
  7. Use a book or film title as a prompt  
  8. Find a landmark on Google maps and write about it. What could you do there? What’s something poetic or exciting that might happen there? (Eg a café where someone might go on their first date, or a mountain that someone might train months to climb, or a river where missionaries paddle down to reach rural tribes.)
  9. Choose a photo and write about where it was taken, who’s in it, and what they did.
  10. Find a song you’ve never heard before, and write a song using its title as a prompt. How different is it to the original song?

I’d love to hear your responses to these prompts! Do you have any you’d like to add to the list?  

Published by Debbie Coll

I'm a storyteller, songwriter and author who loves God, fairy tales and music. I write about tales, creative tips and process on my blog, debbiecoll.com.

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