On Songwriting: Why Switch Up Your Medium

How often do you switch up your medium? Do you always write with pen and paper? iPhone Notes app? Old school typewriter? 

This might sound obvious, but writing is all about transferring information—thoughts, ideas, concepts—from your brain to someplace outside of your brain. For doing this, each medium has its benefits and detriments. 

For example, if I’m typing on my desktop computer, I’m most comfortable. There’s a flow and pattern that’s recognizable. My keyboard is familiar. But I also know that I can delete anything. Nothing I write is permanent. So, I’m slightly careless and noncommittal. I type and delete, type and delete. It’s easy to start overthinking. Even though it’s my most comfortable experience, it’s often my least productive. 

Pen and paper, though? That’s a step up. It’s more physical work to write something down, assuming you’ve been typing most of your life. I find when I’m physically writing, my brain commits more to what I’m saying. There’s more quality control in its communication to my hand. After all, my brain is aware of the physical stress on my hand. It knows my hand doesn’t want to be writing all day. 

The manual typewriter is one my favorites. Not just because it looks cool, though it does. But also because it’s mechanical and loud and it takes force to stamp the ribbon and transfer ink onto the page. Once the sound picks up and becomes steadier, I feel my brain become almost like a locomotive. Like I’m feeding wood into an old steam engine. If I want to keep the chugging of the typewrite keys going, I need keep typing without overthinking. If I overthink, I’ll stop, and it’ll take a lot of effort to get back up to speed again. The typewriter is great for unfiltered, “throw up on the page” writing. I use it to get myself out of my head.

If you’ve been tied to one medium, switch it up. See what happens. Try a range of different mediums until you find one that gets your brain working the way you need it to for that particular part of your songwriting process.