Every songwriter and composer knows they need to work on their writing. Mastery only comes through regular practice.
But if you’re serious about your music career, it’s unlikely that you won’t ever need to write an email, bio, or social media post. You might be able to hire someone to handle those tasks down the line, but if you’re just getting started, you will have many hats to wear – that’s just how it is.
And believe it or not, if you’re doing things right in your music career, a good chunk of your day will be taken up by writing, because it means you’re communicating.
Let’s talk about how to improve your writing and why you’d even want to.
Why Do I Need To Improve My Writing Skills?
Look, we’re not talking about becoming an author here. But communication is at the core of every relationship, so if you aren’t an effective communicator, your networking efforts probably aren’t getting you the results you’re looking for.
And just so you know, what I’m about to share with you applies to every aspect of writing – not just promo documents you’ll need to put together, but also to the lyrical content you create.
Here are the kinds of written pieces musicians often need to produce:
- Social media posts. Social media is a good place to show your personality, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be forgiven for bad grammar and misspellings indefinitely.
- Blog posts. Only musicians who can maintain a blog long-term should commit to blogging. Writing an effective blog post takes work.
- Guest posts. Some musicians use guest posts to market their music and get in front of new audiences. No blog editor in their right mind is going to accept low-quality articles to publish on their blog.
- Emails. You should make phone calls or get in-person meetings if you can, but some industry people only accept emails. Plus, sometimes the only way to make out-of-town or global contacts is with email. Also, you’re going to be engaging with your fans via email campaigns.
- Bios. Whether you’re a solo artist or in a band, you’re going to need a bio. Musicians often don’t understand the purpose of a bio and because of that, don’t know how to write an effective one.
- Advertising. If you’re going to be doing any kind of advertising, you need to gain at least a basic working knowledge of copywriting.
- Grant applications. Grants are more abundant in Canada than in the U.S., but if you’d like to obtain funding for your career, you must learn how to put together a thorough and compelling application – the same goes for crowdfunding campaigns.
I could go on, but I’m sure you’re starting to get the idea.
How To Improve Your Writing Skills
Improving your writing will take time, so commit to your ongoing development. Don’t expect things to happen for you overnight.
Here are several tips to help you improve your writing skills.
Tip #1 – Read A Lot
Every writer communicates differently. You can pick up on their style by observing what words they use, how long their sentences are, what kind of rhythmic qualities their writing has, and so on. And over time, you should begin to recognize which writers are skilled at expressing themselves well, and which ramble on without ever getting to the point.
If you’re saying, “I only read so-and-so’s novels”, it’s time to branch out. Your favorite writer may not be the best communicator in the world, despite your personal feelings around their works. Without new stimuli, you may not grow as a writer.
Read broadly. If you pay close attention to what you’re reading, you’ll pick up on good spelling, grammar, and sentence structure (also take advantage of a free tool like Grammarly). And don’t just pay attention to the message that’s being communicated – also look at how people are structuring and formatting their book, article, or blog post.
Reading also gives you more examples, metaphors, and stories to draw from as a songwriter.
Tip #2 – Just Write
It seems logical that writing regularly would help you improve as a writer. But many people don’t get started, because they don’t like they’re own writing.
I grew up in Japan. When I returned to Canada, honest to god, my English was not great. But I had a desire to create, so I wrote quite a bit. It’s amazing looking back, because I essentially make a living from my writing today.
You have no choice but to start where you are, so you may as well embrace the journey. If you grew up in the North American school system, you have certain advantages I never did.
Whether it’s writing in a journal, or committing to writing a blog post daily or weekly, just start writing. Setting up a Tumblr or WordPress.com blog is free.
Tip #3 – Expand Your Vocabulary
If you do enough reading, you’ll come across words you don’t know. And don’t be prideful and pretend like you know a word when you don’t. Look it up!
We have more tools at our fingertips than ever before, and we don’t even use them. If you have an eReader, you can often press and hold on a word to pull up its definition. If you have a computer or smartphone nearby, you can use a site like Dictionary.com to look up whatever you want. There’s simply no excuse for laziness.
Once you understand how to use a new word, start using it in daily conversation and in your writing. This will help you retain what you’ve learned. But just so you know – a word like “ephemeral” is not only hard to sing, a lot of people don’t know what it means. The point is not to sound smarter than you are, but to find new ways of expressing your ideas.
Becoming fascinated with the English language is the first step to gaining a better understanding of it.
Tip #4 – Ask For Help
Writing is often a solitary pursuit. But that doesn’t mean you should be the only one proofing your writing before it’s published or before you call it “done”.
Get your friends or band mates to read your works and ask for feedback. They can help you spot errors and point out ideas that could be explained better.
You can also join online communities, seek out the mentorship of a local blogger or journalist, or talk to your college professor (even if you haven’t talked to them in a while). They can tell you a lot about effective storytelling and presentation.
The point is that others have something to teach you. And just like your music, getting feedback on your writing can help you make important tweaks to it to take it to the next level.
If you only take away one thing from this guide, it should be this: How to answer the question, “What’s In It For Me?” All people are tuned into that station – WIIFM. So, how are you going to appeal to them, whether it’s with your songs or with your pitches?
The most effective and successful people I know aren’t those who take, take, take. They’re always thinking about the other person and how they’re going to add value to them.
Relationship first, business second. Whoever you’re communicating with, try to see things from their perspective and make it your goal to establish a rapport with them first. They’ll be far more likely to help you down the line if they like you. Stop pitching, and start collaborating.