10♣ Ten of Clubs in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song
Enter a songwriting contest! Or, better yet, save yourself the expense of entry fees and just pretend/imagine that your next song will be entered in a contest. How will your song stack up against the hundreds of other entries? Who are the judges and what are they looking for? Do you meet the criteria for the contest? What can you do you help your song stick out from the crowd and have an "unfair advantage" against the others?
The Ten of Clubs method appeals to your competitive instincts. You want to do better than average — in fact, you really want to end up with the top prize, at #1. Your determination to win, your competitive drive will help you look critically at your work and perhaps admit that your first line doesn't grab people as well as it should; or your hook sounds too ordinary and needs to be punched up in some way; or that the song might go on too long and you really need to find some way to do without the third verse.
Just remember that it's not always best to be intense and self-critical. If you do it all the time, it makes the writing process too stressful. With a critic sitting on your shoulder, the fun drains away, and before long you find yourself making excuses to stay out of the writing studio entirely.
What's more, too much attention and self-critiquing can lead you astray. I've seen writers chip away at a perfectly good song until it self-destructs into a pile of broken shards.
But sometimes a bit of competitive determination is exactly what you need. It makes you try a little harder to find that one extra touch that puts your song over the top, the one last change that transforms it from ordinary to extraordinary.
So check out the song competitions that are open for entry. Or just make up your own imaginary competition. If you go the imaginary route, make it as real for yourself as you can. Decide on a deadline, then record your best possible demo, fill out an entry form, and go through the steps of sending in your entry.