Katelyn Holub

blogging about music, art, and creativity

Overcoming 3 Common Lyric Writing Stumbling Blocks


When I began writing my own songs, I wanted to dazzle everyone with exquisite lyrics and beautiful melodies.  I wanted people to be able to connect with my music, and for the lyrics to engage them, linger in their minds, and make them think.  Choosing just the right words was all it took.  I knew what I wanted to say, so how hard could it be?

*Photo Credit: Walt Stoneburner, Creative Commons

*Photo Credit: Walt Stoneburner, Creative Commons

Boy, was I naïve.  Lyric writing soon became a daunting task.  I had put too much pressure on having the absolute perfect lyrics that I froze up and went nowhere.

I should have considered the broader picture—that I had lots of options and plenty of time to write.  That would have relieved much of the paralyzing pressure preventing me from writing more lyrics.

What are the common stumbling blocks?

1.  Trying too hard to get it all done in one sitting.  Don’t be in a rush.  Even if you were just on a roll, it’s okay to stop if the rest of the words don’t come to you all at once.

Don’t try to force the words because you’ll probably end up with worse than mediocre lyrics.  Be patient and give your mind a chance to ruminate over thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

When you return to the song later in the day or over the next few days, you’ll have a fresh perspective and the natural words will just come to you.

2.  Thinking too narrowly and literally.  Say it’s the end of a phrase and you just need one word to finish it off, but that word has to be the proper syllable count, sound right, and fit within the meaning of the song.  That can feel like a lot of pressure to choose the best word, but back up.

Maybe there are more options than you realize.  Can the meaning you are trying to convey be shown through non-literal, figurative, metaphorical, or symbolic language?

Can you use a word from a foreign language to get your meaning across?  Can you re-word the existing lyrical phrase or insert words earlier?

3.  Overlooking the power of pacing.  It’s easy to get caught up in the details of choosing the right words to convey a message, but pacing can be a powerful, helpful tool in lyric writing.

If you want the song to have an energetic feel, think about choosing short, punchy words that can be sung rhythmically and quickly.  If you want to create a slower, relaxed feel, consider longer words, or short words that have vowels in places that you could hold onto and draw out.

How do you overcome lyric writing challenges?   


Author: katelynholub

I'm a law school graduate, singer-songwriter, believer, blogger, and general adventurer.

6 thoughts on “Overcoming 3 Common Lyric Writing Stumbling Blocks

  1. Those are real thoughtful, practical ideas.

  2. Hi KT,
    It’s fun reading your musings. You are definitely keeping your New Years resolution. Hope all is well, saw your Mom Sat actually worked with her at Kids for Hunger.

    • Thanks, Susan! It’s fun to write this blog, and I’m quite amazed that I’ve actually been able to post consistently so far. 🙂 I am doing well–more than halfway through my last semester now!

  3. Don’t you love that “get stuck on one word to finish a song thingy” I sat on a song for about a month or two before it came through and thank god I waited. It was worth it because I don’t know what word it was now. The whole song sounds complete and that mysterious word fitted in it’s place perfectly and in disguise, just how it should.
    Patience, perseverance, consistency and persistency, some key ingredients in starting and most importantly, finishing a song.
    good blog. cheers darryl

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