Saturday, February 5, 2011

Seed your creativity

In computer programming, a seed is a bit of data that you throw into a quasi-random process. If the process is truly random, it shouldn't really matter what your inputs are, but using a new seed is an extra way of making sure that the output you get from the process is different from the output you got the last time.

In the same spirit, I suggest using a seed when you're are brainstorming (or idea grabbing) for new song ideas. The seed can be:
  • something that's on your mind, that you know you'd like to write about
  • something that's literally right in front of you, a random object in your environment
  • a word or phrase from any available random generator
Strange as it seems, it's easier to think of songs about "white trucks" (for example) than it is to think of songs about any possible subject. Somehow narrowing the field of options makes it easier for your creative mind to get started.

Try any of these random tools, or invent your own:
(Those last three items, by the way, are from a "random album cover" game making the rounds of Facebook. According to the game, the Wikipedia article supplies the band name, the last quotation on the page suggests your album title, and the third Flickr photo is your album cover art.)

I also have several decks of cards with words and ideas on them. Some are intended as creativity tools, like the Once Upon a Time storytelling cards. Some of my decks are leftover from word-oriented board games, dream interpretation games, and even song lyrics-oriented games. And some were meant as oracles (fortune-telling tools), but also happen to serve as random content tools. If you happen to come a similar deck of cards at a flea market or garage sale, I recommend buying it and adding it to your collection of creativity tools. It's fun to shuffle the cards and deal out a few seeds of song ideas.

Note: I apologize that my own Songwriting Assignment Generator is offline. I think it's just that my web host changed the PHP configuration, but I haven't had time to troubleshoot it.

My suggestion for how to get the most out of your brainstorming:
  1. Pick a seed at random from any of these sources
  2. Start a timer or stopwatch for a short period of time (3 minutes at most), and race to write down as many possible song ideas as you can, based on the seed idea
  3. When the time is up, pick a different random seed and start the timer again.

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