Posts in Nonesuch Records
Sara Watkins, Nickel Creek

Much of Sara Watkins' songwriting process involves not writing songs. Her routine is filled with creative exercises that don't produce lyrics but still make her a better songwriter. Some of these exercises are, in her words, "silly and pointless," like when she creates Christmas cards or arts and crafts projects.  Sometimes she sketches.  Other times, her song lyrics start as long journal entries, and it's not until the last line of the entry that she hits on a lyric or the focus of the song. 

All these activities make her a better songwriter because they strengthen the creative side of her brain.  This idea holds true for most of the songwriters I've interviewed for this site: the most prolific, by far, are those who engage in other creative outlets or who read voraciously. By contrast, the worldview of a one-dimensional artist is pretty limited.  I was intrigued by one exercise Watkins gives herself that has nothing to do with songwriting: she takes a few items lying around the house (maybe a piece of paper, a bobby pin, and a rubber band) and creates something with it. The fewer items she uses, the better the product. 

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Ben Knox Miller, The Low Anthem

Of the many songwriters I've interviewed for Songwriters on Process, they are divided into two camps when it comes to discipline in writing. Most believe that carving time out of their day to write is not the "organic" way to do things and thus leads to subpar creative output.  They prefer to rely more on the inspiration of the muse.  The other camp, a smaller one, believes in the importance of discipline in writing. They write on a regular basis.  This routine, they feel, will make them stronger writers and will boost their creativity.  So perhaps we can say that the former group is more reactive, waiting for inspiration to strike, while the latter is more proactive, actively seeking out creativity.  Both groups have offered persuasive explanations for their method. 

But for Ben Knox Miller of The Low Anthem, this discussion of discipline in writing is irrelevant.  Sure, he writes every day.  Usually upon waking, for reasons he explains below.  But Miller doesn't write because he needs to or because it's part of being a songwriter or because it's a cathartic release.  He does it because he likes to.  He looks forward to writing. So his songwriting process really requires no discipline at all.

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