3 Ways to Write a Song

A few tips that Jillian found after researching John and the Beatles.

1) Let the lyrics simmer

  • Lennon first writes on scraps of paper, and move to the typewriter as it progresses
  • inspiration strikes at any moment, so have a medium to capture it
  • walk away from a challenging song, and come back to it later

2) Cut-Up the Newspaper

  • "A Day in the Life" was inspired by a newspaper article, John and Paul used their imagination to break-up news stories.
  • Used the cut-up technique by Burroughs to blend fact and fiction

3) Free-Association

  • write whatever that comes into your head, until you get the word. George had a struggle writing lyrics for "Something".
  • creative work bears a strong resemblance to play. Sometimes, it's all a matter of perspective


  • Don't be afraid to take a break from a project: John and Paul would come together when they're stuck on song writing; Mark Twain took year long breaks
  • Use different tools for different writing states: ex: sketch ideas in a different font than the final form; write out ideas and type it as it takes shape
  • Give chance a chance: free-association and cut-up techniques break us out of conventions
  • make it easy to capture ideas: it's easy to capture them with our phones today, ex: Charlie Puth sings into voicenotes on his phone